Medical experts in Great Britain are warning that gonorrhea may have mutated into a form that has made it resistant to drug treatments, rendering the disease potentially incurable.
The antibiotic that has usually been used to treat the sexually transmitted disease, cefixime, is no longer effective.
Britain’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) warns that unless new treatments are discovered, the disease will be resilient to any cures.
A study by HPA revealed that in almost 20 percent of sample cases from 2010 the disease exhibited reduced susceptibility to cefixime (versus a figure of 10 percent in the prior year and zero just six years ago).
According to BBC, the bacterium that causes the infection - Neisseria gonorrhoeae - has an “unusual ability to adapt itself and has gained resistance, or reduced susceptibility, to a growing list of antibiotics - first penicillin itself, then tetracyclines, ciprofloxacin and now cefixime.”
Cathy Ison, a gonorrhea expert at HPA, told BBC: Our lab tests have shown a dramatic reduction in the sensitivity of the drug we were using as the main treatment for gonorrhea. This presents the very real threat of untreatable gonorrhea in the future. We were so worried by the results we were seeing that we recommended that guidelines on the treatment of gonorrhea were revised in May this year, to recommend a more effective drug.”
She added: But this won't solve the problem, as history tells us that resistance to this therapy will develop too. In the absence of any new alternative treatments for when this happens, we will face a situation where gonorrhea cannot be cured.
According to HPA, gonorrhea is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK after genital Chlamydia. The highest rates of gonorrhea are found in women aged 16-19 and in men aged 20-24 years.
Ison added: This highlights the importance of practicing safe sex, as, if new antibiotic treatments can't be found, this will be only way of controlling this infection in the future.