WHO: Drug-Resistant Strains Of Gonorrhoea on the Rise Worldwide
According to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, “The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens has accelerated. The trends are clear and ominous. No action today means no cure tomorrow. At a time of multiple calamities in the world, we cannot allow the loss of essential medicines – essential cures for many millions of people – to become the next global crisis.”
Her words ring true, and are as ominous as the trends are clear. Globally drug-resistant gonorrhea cases are on the rise, estimated at 106.1 million cases in 2008, up from 87.7 million cases in 2005. That is a 21% increase in 3 short years.
Gonorrhea, as well as other STI’s, is a global public health challenge due to the high incidence of infections worldwide, and the dwindling treatment options. Antibiotic resistant strains of gonorrhea are proliferating worldwide and the WHO has created a global action plan to control the spread and minimize the impact of antimicrobial resistant gonorrhea (N. gonorrhoeae).
Infections from gonorrhea can be easily prevented through safe sex practices, like condom usage. Once acquired, a gonorrhea infection is becoming increasingly hard to cure, because of decreased susceptibility and resistance to the “last line” cephalosporins, added to the long-standing prevalence of resistance to penicillins, sulfoneamides, tetracyclines and more recently quinolones and macrolides including azithromycin, has created major concerns within the healthcare community.
Gonorrhea has the potential to become completely untreatable given the current reality of limited treatment options, particularly in settings that also have a high burden of gonococcal infections. The loss of effective and available treatment options may one day lead to significant increases in morbidity and mortality, and the future could resemble the pre-antibiotic era when there was a risk of death from common infections such as a streptococcal throat infection or from a child’s skinned knee.
The recent increase is of gonorrhea on a global level, and the spread of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea will not go away anytime soon, and will continue to affect increasing numbers of communities worldwide.
The rising rates of resistance to any particular antibiotic have developed over extremely prolonged periods. This phenomenon has been observed in many of the regions that the WHO administers, where the majority of strains that are tested still continue to exhibit high level plasmid mediated resistance to tetracyclines, penicillin and quinolones even though their use in treating gonorrhea has been discontinued.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 700,000 people in the United States will get new gonorrhea infections this year, with less than half of them being reported to the CDC.
For more information about gonorrhea, follow this link to the CDC fact sheet on gonorrhea.
Article by Jim Donahue
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