width=196A leading sexual health said gonorrhoea risks becoming a drug-resistant superbug if doctors do no come up with new ways of treating it.

Catherine Ison, a specialist on gonorrhoea from the Health Protection Agency said a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Manila next week would be vital to efforts to try to stop the bacterial from continuously adapting to and overcoming drugs.

This is a very clever bacteria. If this problem isn't addressed, there is a real possibility that gonorrhoea will become a very difficult infection to treat, she said.

The highest incidences of gonorrhoea were in south and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with reports of rising gonorrhoea drug resistance came from Hong Kong, China, Australia and parts of Asia.

Gonorrhoea is a common bacterial sexually-transmitted infection that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women, if left untreated.

Every year, at least 340 million new cases of people from 15 to 49 years of age develop the infections which include syphilis, gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and trichomoniasis. The current treatment consists of a single antibiotic dose of either cefixime or ceftriaxone.

At a Society for General Microbiology conference in Edinburg, Ms Ison said strains of the Neisseria gonorrhoea bacteria were becoming resistant and could soon become impervious to current antibiotic treatments.

Ceftriaxone and cefixime are still very effective but there are signs that resistance particularly to cefixime is emerging and soon these drugs may not be a good choice, she said.

In Japan, - where health authorities have started to up the dose for the treatment, using the same antibiotic - cases of multiple-drug resistant gonorrhoea or superbug have started to appear.

Ms Ison said the best way to try to decrease the risk now, would be to treat gonorrhoea with two antibiotics at one time - apart from encouraging the use of condoms.

There are few new drugs available. So using more than one at the same time is probably what should happen in the first instance.

We also need to set up good lines of communication between countries so that we can all talk to each other about what's happening in gonorrhoea an make sure we change treatment strategies when need to, said Ms Ison.