In a warning issued just months after the outbreak of a highly drug-resistant gonorrhea strain in the region, England’s chief medical officer warned Sunday that the disease could soon become untreatable. Dame Sally Davies urged General Practitioners (GPs) and pharmacies to ensure that they are prescribing the correct drugs to treat the bacterial infection, according to media reports Sunday.
“Gonorrhea is at risk of becoming an untreatable disease due to the continuing emergence of antimicrobial resistance,” Davies reportedly wrote, in a letter to GPs and pharmacies. “Gonorrhea has rapidly acquired resistance to new antibiotics, leaving few alternatives to the current recommendations. It is therefore extremely important that suboptimal treatment does not occur.”
In recent years, as patients resort to indiscriminate use of antibiotics, emergence of “superbugs” has become a major healthcare crisis. Last December, a British government-commissioned review warned that growing resistance to drugs could cast medicine “back to the dark ages” and lead to the death of over 10 million people across the globe by 2050.
In the case of gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection that is currently the second most common bacterial STI in the U.K. after chlamydia, research published earlier this year indicated that doctors in the country were still prescribing the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, even though it was no longer effective in at least a third of the cases.
And, in September, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) reported that at least 16 cases of the so-called “super-gonorrhea,” which is resistant to first-line antibiotic azithromycin, were detected in several parts of England since March, raising further concerns that this bacterial strain may spread across the country.
“We're really pleased that the chief medical officer has stressed that gonorrhea needs this approach to treatment due to the rapid development of resistance,” BASHH President Jan Clarke told the BBC. “We need to protect what we've got and we need to encourage pharmacists and general practitioners to follow first-line treatment.”