Antibiotic resistance might render gonorrhea incurable, health experts from the United Kingdom are now warning.
Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, has recently issued an advisory note to all drug stores and physicians across the country in order to emphasize the importance of prescribing adequate treatment against gonorrhea.
This sexually transmitted disease, caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoea, is usually insidious, having no manifestations. However, when symptoms do occur, they consist in pain or burning sensations while urinating, coupled with penile/vaginal discharges.
Some men may also experience swelling of their testicles, while women may have abnormal uterine bleeding (between periods).
Usually, the infection can easily be combated with antibiotics, but in the northern part of England sexual health practitioners identified a type of gonorrhea which doesn’t subside when the usual type of medicine is administered.
This “super gonorrhea”, which was first detected in samples pertaining to a person from Leeds back in March, appears to be resistant to azithromycin, and has so far affected 16 people, as revealed by officials from Public Health England (PHE).
In fact, the outbreak has sparked a nationwide alert in September due to the high probability that many other cases have remained unreported so far.
Apparently, very few patients are prescribed the correct treatment, consisting in a combination between this antimicrobial capsule and another antibiotic called ceftriaxone, available as an injection.
Instead, as revealed by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), people with gonorrhea only take the oral medicine, because this is the only one recommended by certain online pharmacies.
This drug used by itself is grossly insufficient against the bacteria, and so is ciprofloxacin, another treatment which was proven ineffective as early as 2005, but still accounts for around 20% of all the prescriptions against gonorrhea.
As a result of these inefficient pills, Neisseria gonorrhoea has been gaining more strength, and may soon transform into an extremely harmful and potent superbug.
Therefore, now alert has been raised regarding the importance of using the most potent type of therapy from the very beginning, so as not to increase gonorrhea’s virulence even further.
With inadequate medical care, gonorrhea can result in pelvic inflammatory disease among women, and epididymitis (inflammation of the testicle tubes) among men, leading to sterility and infertility. In some cases, the infection can even be transmitted to babies from their mothers, during delivery, leading to permanent vision loss.
Given these significant health risks, Dr. Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England’s National Health Service (NHS) also warns that patients should use more effective protection during sexual intercourse and gain more awareness regarding the most comprehensive treatment against gonorrhea.
Otherwise, increasingly more harmful bacterial strains will emerge, until the disease becomes incurable, leaving hundreds of thousands of patients unable to conceive children.
As the Centers for Disease Control has reported, gonorrhea has affected more than 350,000 people in 2014, being the second most common sexually transmitted disease (following chlamydia). The prevalence of this disease has risen by around 5.1% since 2013, and by more than 10% in the last 5 years.
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