Gonorrhea has taken many forms over the last few decades. The strain that people acquire today isn't the same one that previous generations had to deal with. In fact, it might not be the same strain that infected people a little over 10 years ago. That's because gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), has become resistant to most of the antibiotics that we have used to combat it over the last three decades.
Cases of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea have been on the decline in the US since the 1970s. However, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hints that this might not be the case for long.
Next, gonorrhea resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics emerged, leaving only one class of antibiotic drugs, cephalosporins, left to treat it. Now, as you might suspect, gonorrhea is fast becoming resistant to cephalosporins the last available antibiotics to treat it.
Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea May Soon Be a Major Public Health Threat
Gonorrhea infects about 820,000 people each year in the US. Although it often causes no symptoms, it may initially cause painful urination or discharge from the vagina or penis.
It used to be easy to cure gonorrhea with antibiotics, but increasing drug-resistant strains are changing the game, making this one STD that could put you at risk of permanent health damage. If left …
In men, gonorrhea may cause pain in the tubes attached to the testicles or lead to sterility. In rare cases, gonorrhea may also infect your blood or joints, which may be life threatening.
According to Workowski, effective antimicrobial treatment is the foundation of a gonorrhea prevention program. Surveillance programs for antimicrobial resistance are crucial to make sure that treatment remains effective.
Primary screening of the populations at highest risk for infection is another component of gonorrhea control. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all sexually active women at increased risk be screened. In addition, CDC recommends MSM to be screened for gonorrhea and other STDs. Secondary screening, by retesting patients 3 to 4 months after treatment and evaluating and treating partners, also is a critical component to gonorrhea prevention and control.
What Will Happen if Antibiotics Stop Working?
According to the “Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report” published by the CDC in 2013, two million American adults and children become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections. Even more die from complications.
Unless something changes, these numbers are only going to get worse. What we're seeing is the evolution of bacteria. Basically, microorganisms have learned to teach each other how to outsmart the best pharmaceutical drugs we have to offer, and they are definitely winning the battle.
Drug companies have little financial incentive to produce new antibiotics, as they don't make nearly the profits of medications meant to be taken for a lifetime, such as cholesterol-lowering medications. So new “miracle” drugs that can replace the antibiotics that are quickly dropping off the usefulness spectrum are few and far between, and medicine has very few options when the antibiotic pipeline completely dries up.
Doing Your Part to Stay Well
The impending superbug crisis has a three-prong solution:
1. Better infection prevention, with a focus on strengthening your immune system naturally
2. More responsible use of antibiotics for people and animals, with a return to biodynamic farming and a complete overhaul of our food system
3. Innovative new approaches to the treatment of infections from all branches of science, natural as well as allopathic
Overall, the study suggests that if 10 percent of gonorrhea samples are resistant to the recommended treatment, then there will be a subsequent 7 percent increase in gonorrhea. Given that 820,000 cases are diagnosed in the US each year, a 10 percent cephalosporin-resistance rate would represent 57,400 additional cases — all of which would be extremely hard to treat. And this number could become even higher over time because of the cumulative effect of resistance.
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