Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium that causes Gonorrhea, is developing new strands resistant to every treatment.
‘This organism has basically been developing resistance against every medication we’ve thrown at it,’ said Dr. Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, a scientist in WHO’s department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
This includes a group of antibiotics called cephalosporins currently considered the last line of treatment.
Resistance to cephalosporins was first reported in Japan, but more recently has also been detected in Britain, Australia, France, Sweden and Norway.
As these are all countries with well-developed health systems, it is likely that cephalosporin-resistant strains are also circulating undetected elsewhere.
A ‘super’ strain of untreatable gonorrhea that infects millions each year is sweeping developed countries across the world including United Kingdom, according to World Health Organization (WHO).
The U.N. health agency is urging governments and doctors to step up surveillance of the STD, the second most common after chlamydia.
Gonorrhea can cause inflammation, infertility, pregnancy complications and, in extreme cases, lead to maternal death.
Babies born to mothers with gonorrhea have a 50 per cent chance of developing eye infections that can result in blindness.
More than 17,000 new cases of gonorrhea were reported in the UK in 2009. Young men and women are affected most, the highest rates of gonorrhea are seen in women aged 16-19 and men aged 20-24.
‘I think this is probably only the tip of the iceberg,’ said Professor Catherine Ison, who oversees the national surveillance program for treatment of resistant gonorrhea in England and Wales.
Doctors have blamed overuse or misuse of antibiotics for the disease moving towards becoming a superbug, coupled with the bacteria’s astonishing ability to adapt.
Professor Ison said doctors in Britain are now switching to using a combination of antibiotics over a longer period of time to combat resistant gonorrhea.
These bacteria survive antibiotic treatment due to a mutation that makes them resistant, then quickly spread their genes in an accelerated process of natural selection.
Dr. Lusti-Narasimhan said that better sex education was needed, as proper condom use is an effective means of stopping transmission.
Now, the global health body estimates that gonorrhea is responsible for 106 million infections annually and it also increases the chances of infection with other diseases, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).