Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is on the rise again

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An Antibiotic for Gonorrhea Is Becoming Less Effective

Gonorrhea used to be one of those "quick fix" sexually transmitted infections—as soon as you knew you had it, you could take an antibiotic and be done with it. That is changing rapidly, however—the bacteria that causes the disease is becoming resistant to antibiotics, which could have a major impact on public health, according to a report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Gonorrhea is the second most common STI in the United States (the first is HPV); more than 350,000 new cases were reported in 2014. Like many bacteria, the one that causes gonorrhea, called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has gradually evolved to become resistant to the various antibiotics that have been used to combat it.

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This illustration depicts a three-dimensional (3D) computer-generated image of a number of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeaediplococcal bacteria. Note that extending from the organisms’ exterior were type IV pili, or hair-like appendages, which in this case, are used to promote motility for these bacteria, and improve surface adherence. The artistic recreation was based upon scanning electron micrographic imagery. (Photo via CDC)
Gonococci Or Neisseria Gonorrhoeae In An Uretral Pus. This Bacterium Is Reponsible For Gonorrhea Blennorrhagia Or Clap, Urethritis, Vaginitis Sexually Transmitted Disease. Microscopy X 600. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 2003: Microphotograph of gonococcus (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), bacteria which causes gonorrhea. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Chart shows rate of drug resistant gonorrhea cases since 2000; 1c x 3 1/2 inches; 46.5 mm x 89 mm
Gonococci Or Neisseria Gonorrhoeae In An Uretral Pus. This Bacterium Is Reponsible For Gonorrhea Blennorrhagia Or Clap, Urethritis, Vaginitis Sexually Transmitted Disease. Microscopy X 600. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Gonococci Or Neisseria Gonorrhoeae In An Uretral Pus. This Bacterium Is Reponsible For Gonorrhea Blennorrhagia Or Clap, Urethritis, Vaginitis Sexually Transmitted Disease. Microscopy X 600. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 11: Dr. Vanessa Allen leads an international effort to deal with growing problem of drug-resistant gonorrhea. She has just published a ground-breaking study in the Journal of American Medicine based on research conducted at a government lab in Etobicoke that looked at samples from Ontario patients. The medical microbiologist is seen in her public health lab with a plate of cultured Neisseria ganorrhoeae. 13-01-11 Richard Lautens/Toronto Star (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Charts shows the rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the U.S. from 2002 to 2006; 1c x 3 1/2 inches; 46.5 mm x 88.9 mm
Health awareness poster features a stalwart soldier accompanied by the text 'Fight ... syphilis and gonorrhea,' 1943. Included are several tips 'Avoid exposure,' 'Avoid pickups and prostitutes,' 'If exposed, use prophylaxis,' and 'If infected, see a medical officer.' (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Red-tinted poster (by Charles Casa) features a woman in a feathered hat as she smokes a cigarette and leans against a shadowed brick wall on a street corner, accompanied by the text 'Easy to Get...Syphilis and Gonorrhea,' 1940. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
She may be; a bag of TROUBLE. Syphilis  Gonorrhea. U.S. Public Health Service, United States, 1940s. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
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The CDC now recommends dual therapy, a one-two punch of injected and oral antibiotics, to treat gonorrhea. But according to the report, those two might not work for much longer. The researchers tested the resistance of the bacteria in 5,000 specimens collected from patients all over the country in 2014. They found that the bacteria were highly resistant to a number of antibiotics, and that resistance of the two currently in use has grown—for one, azithromycin, the percentage of bacteria resistant to treatment grew from 0.6 to 2.5 between 2013 and 2014. The increase in resistant bacteria was found in samples from all over the country (but especially in the midwest) and people of all sexual orientations.

Untreatable gonorrhea is just one of the semi-apocalyptic predictions for widespread antibiotic resistance. Trips to the hospital, simple surgical procedures, or even a mere cut could become lethal if an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection resulted from any of them. Discovering new antibiotics is expensive and difficult, so few pharmaceutical companies devote their resources to it. Now scientists in the academic and public sectors are pushing for more research to speed up this process, but progress has been slow.

For now, if you get gonorrhea, you can probably still find an antibiotic that works. To lower your risk of contracting gonorrhea that might be resistant to treatment, use a condom.

The post Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea Is On The Rise Again appeared first on Vocativ.

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