A man in the U.K. was recently diagnosed with “super gonorrhea,” a case of the sexually transmitted disease (STD) that public health experts are calling the “worst ever.” British experts say this is the first time the infection has displayed complete resistance to the antibiotics commonly used to cure the disease, though they are hopeful that another antibiotic could work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gonorrhea is a common STD that can infect anyone who is sexually active and has unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. Left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to serious and permanent health problems.
The disease is commonly treated with a combination of two drugs: intramuscular ceftriaxone and oral azithromycin. However, treatment resistance in gonorrhea is increasing and successful treatment of the infection is becoming more difficult.
“In the early 1990s, we had multiple antibiotics and regimens that were recommended to treat gonorrhea,” says Dr. Danny Younes, an OBGYN with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “Over the years, gonorrhea has developed resistance to most of these antibiotics. We are down to our last effective class of antibiotic.”
According to Dr. Younes, there are estimated to be over 820,000 new gonorrhea cases annually in the U.S. It is estimated that less than half of these are reported to authorities, which can cause areas of epidemic.
What to do if you think you might have gonorrhea
Dr. Younes recommends you seek medical attention as early as possible at the first signs of disease or if you’re high risk. Those at greater risk include sexually active men who have sex with men, and sexually active women with new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted disease.
“Seek testing and get treatment,” Dr. Younes says. “Treatment should be for you and your partner — this is the only way to help protect you from being reinfected by your partner or spreading the infection.”
Dr. Younes feels confident in the Department of Public Health and CDC’s ongoing research to better arm people against this resistance-growing gonorrhea. However, he encourages everyone to do their part in prevention.
“Although the only way to ensure prevention of STDs is abstinence, this may not be realistic,” he says. “Safe sex practices are otherwise recommended: use dental dams and reliable condoms for oral, vaginal and anal intercourse every time, and seek testing.”
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about gonorrhea or other STDs. If you are diagnosed with the disease, the CDC stresses that it is important to take all of the medication you have been prescribed. If symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, return to your health care provider to be re-evaluated.