US News & World Report (02.14.12) - Wednesday, February 15,
Gonorrhea is increasingly showing resistance to one of the
last known effective antibiotic treatments, and researchers
say it is time to "sound the alarm" about the potential for
untreatable forms of the STD.
"During the past three years, the wily gonococcus has become
less susceptible to our last line of antimicrobial defense,
threatening our ability to cure gonorrhea," Dr. Gail Bolan,
director of CDC's STD prevention program, and colleagues wrote
in a perspective piece.
Gonorrhea has had a long history of developing resistance to
antibiotics, CDC notes, but more effective drugs have usually
been available to treat patients. However, today about 1.7
percent of gonorrhea cases are resistant to cephalosporins,
the last line of defense against the STD. That is a 17-fold
increase in such resistance since 2006, when surveillance data
showed the prevalence of resistance was 0.1 percent.
The strains have been appearing most often in western states,
where 3.6 percent are showing resistance to cephalosporins,
and in men who have sex with men, with nearly 5 percent
showing resistance, said Bolan. In the United States, it is
estimated there are more than 600,000 incident cases of
It is by using a combination of cephalosporins and other
antibiotics that US doctors have been able to prevent
gonorrhea infections from being completely untreatable, CDC
spokesperson Nikki Mayes wrote in an e-mail. However, "The
trends in decreased susceptibility that we're seeing, coupled
with the history of emerging resistance and reported treatment
failures in other countries, point to the likelihood of
treatment failures on the horizon," she said.
"As far as gonorrhea goes, I am not aware of any new drugs in
the pipeline," said Nicole Mahoney, senior officer of the
antibiotics and innovation project at PEW Charitable Trusts.
While a gonorrhea vaccine "remains key to prevention and
control," it is a "distant goal," Bolan noted.
The article, "The Emerging Threat of Untreatable Gonococcal
Infection," was published in the New England Journal of