Scientists in Japan have found a new antibiotic-resistant strain of Gonorrhea bacteria, which can lead to a global public pandemic.

The new strain of Neisseria gonorrhea, H041, cannot be treated by current cephalosporins, the only known and tested antibiotic with the ability to fight the sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Found by Magnus Unemo of the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria in Kyoto, Japan, the resistant strain has genetically mutated over the years to directly attack and resist cephalosporins used for treatment.

While it is still too early to assess if this new strain has become widespread, the history of newly emergent resistance in the bacterium suggests that it may spread rapidly unless new drugs and effective treatment programs are developed, Unemo said.

A sexually transmitted disease, Gonorrhea is one of the most common bacterial infections plaguing the United States with nearly 700,000 new cases each year. Since the disease is often times asymptomatic or easily mistaken, less than half of cases go unreported and untreated. If untreated, gonorrhea can lead to permanent health issues such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility stemmed from epididymitis in men and ectopic pregnancy in women. The infection can also spread to the blood or joints, which can be life-threatening. The Clap, as it has commonly been nicknamed, is most prevalent among sexually active people aged 16-24, spread with direct contact with the penis, vagina, mouth anus or childbirth.

Treated solely by antibiotics since 1940, experts say they are not necessarily surprised a new antibiotic-resistant strain surfaced. Last year, increasing reports of resistance in south-east Asia and Australia foreshadowed the inability for antibiotic treatment.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the superbug strain is much more difficult to treat and prompts the need to research and develop new treatment regimens for prevention and successful treatment of the infection.

Experts are currently testing methods involving the simultaneous usage of two or more antibiotics in order to treat the new strain of gonorrhea. Unemo stated that carbapenems, the most powerful antibiotics made, might be an effective route for treating the H041 strain before it spreads around the world.

The CDC along with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is aiming to increase awareness and prevention by warning the public of ways to reduce the risk, such as monitoring sexual activity and the usage of contraceptives, like latex condoms.