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Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea Spreading

June 9th, 2012

By Amir Khan

Drug-resistant gonorrhea is spreading across the world, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.  Unless doctors catch and treat cases sooner, millions of patients may be stuck with an untreatable STD.

“Gonorrhoea is becoming a major public health challenge,” Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, from the WHO’s department of reproductive health and research, told Reuters. “The organism is what we term a superbug – it has developed resistance to virtually every class of antibiotics that exists. If gonococcal infections become untreatable, the health implications are significant.”

The World Health Organization called for greater vigilance in the use of antibiotics. The emergence of drug-resistant bacteria stems from unregulated use of the drugs, which helps fuel mutations in the bacteria and makes them resistant.

Antibiotic resistant gonorrhea isn’t a new problem. During World War II, gonorrhea became resistant to the drug sulfanilamide. In the 1980s, it became resistant to penicillin and tetracyclin. In 2007, the antibiotic fluoroquinolone stopped working. Now researchers worry that they are running out of effective drugs.

People with gonorrhea often do not exhibit symptoms, but possible symptoms are vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain or pain during intercourse. Men can also experience a burning sensation during urination. If left untreated, serious health issues can develop, including pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility in women and is one reason the antibiotic resistant strain can be a huge problem.

Gonorrhea is spread through vaginal, anal or oral intercourse and can be transmitted during childbirth. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot catch gonorrhea from a toilet seat.

But how do the bacteria that cause gonorrhea become resistant to antibiotics?

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