Kate Kelland of Reuters reports, July 11, 2011, that scientists have found a “superbug” strain of gonorrhea in Japan that is extremely resistant to all cephalosporin-class antibiotics — the last remaining drugs still effective in treating gonorrhea.
A “superbug” is a bacteria that has mutated and become resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics.
The World Health Organization estimates there are at least 340 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections — including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis — every year among people aged 15 to 49.
But the new strain of the sexually transmitted gonorrhea — called H041 — cannot be killed by any currently recommended treatments for gonorrhea, leaving doctors with no other option than to try medicines so far untested against the disease.
Magnus Unemo of the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria, who discovered the strain with colleagues from Japan in samples from Kyoto, described it as both “alarming” and “predictable.” He said, “Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for gonorrhea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs introduced to control it. Japan has historically been the place for the first emergence and subsequent global spread of different types of resistance in gonorrhea.”
Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection and if left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.
It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world and is most prevalent in south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of cases is estimated at around 700,000 a year.
Experts say the best way to reduce the risk of even greater resistance developing — beyond the urgent need to develop effective new drugs — is to treat gonorrhea with combinations of two or more types of antibiotic at the same time. This technique is used in the treatment of some other diseases like tuberculosis in an attempt to make it more difficult for the bacteria to learn how to conquer the drugs.
Unemo said however that experience from previous degrees of resistance acquired by gonorrhea suggested this new multi-drug resistant strain could spread around the world within decades. “Based on the historical data … resistance has emerged and spread internationally within 10 to 20 years,” he said, which means this new “superbug” gonorrhea can transform a once easily treatable infection into a global public health threat.
H/t beloved fellow Anon.
Here’s some data I found on gonorrhea from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
What is gonorrhea?: Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease and the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in the United States. Infections due to Neisseria gonorrhoeae, like those resulting from C. trachomatis, are a major cause of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) in the United States. PID can lead to serious outcomes in women, such as tubal infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. In addition, epidemiologic and biologic studies provide strong evidence that gonococcal infections facilitate the transmission of HIV infection.
- By region: In 2009, as in previous years, the South had the highest gonorrhea rate (133.2 cases per 100,000 population) among the four regions of the country, and rates in the South and Midwest remained higher than rates in the Northeast and West.
- By gender: Before 1996, gonorrhea rates among men were higher than rates among women. Since that time, rates have been similar among women and men, but during the past 3 years, an increasing trend shows slightly higher rates among women (Figure 15). In 2009, the gonorrhea rate was 105.5 cases per 100,000 population among women and 91.9 among men.
- By age: In 2009, gonorrhea rates continued to be highest among adolescents and young adults. In 2009, women aged 15–19 and 20–24 years had the highest rates of gonorrhea (568.8 and 555.3, respectively). Among men, the rate was highest among those aged 20–24 years (407.5).
- By race: In 2009, gonorrhea rates remained highest among blacks (556.4 cases per 100,000 population) (Figure 22, Table 21B). Similar to recent years, the rate among blacks was 20.5 times higher than the rate among whites (27.2). Gonorrhea rates were 4.2 times higher among American Indians/Alaska Natives (113.3) and 2.2 times higher among Hispanics (58.6) than among whites in 2009. Rates among whites were 1.5 times higher than those among Asians/Pacific Islanders (18.1) in 2009.
- Increasing among gay men: Due to an increase in unsafe sex, male rectal gonorrhea incidence increased from 1994 through 1997, from 21 to 38 per 100,000 adult men (Figure_1). This increase in incidence was observed in all racial/ethnic and age groups but was highest among men aged 25-34 years (from 41 to 83 cases per 100,000 men aged 25-34 years, pless than 0.01).