A new drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea spreading through North America, Europe and Asia could be more deadly than AIDS, according to U.S. doctors.
Gonorrhea HO41, a strain that was first discovered in Japan in 2011 in a 31-year-old female sex worker, has not yet resulted in any deaths, Sky News reported. But doctors warn that if preventative measures aren’t taken now, it could lead to a crisis.
“The potential for disaster is great,” William Smith of the U.S. National Coalition of STD Directors said. “It's an emergency situation ... As time moves on, it's getting more hazardous."
Since it was first detected, HO41 has cropped up in California, Hawaii and Norway. If untreated, the disease can heighten the patient’s risk for acquiring HIV, as well as result in infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and infections of the blood stream. And according to the Daily Mail, the last group of antibiotics that have been used to treat the gonorrhea have begun failing across the globe, leading to widespread fear that the sexually transmitted disease may quickly become incurable.
"This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," Alan Christianson, a naturopathic doctor based in Arizona, told CNBC. "Getting gonorrhea from this strain might put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days. This is very dangerous."
In a December article in the journal of Future Microbiology, World Health Oranization officials said that, “An era of untreatable gonorrhea may be approaching, which represents an exceedingly serious public health problem.”
Smith reportedly urged Congress members as recently as last week to set aside additional funding to the tune of $54 million to develop a new antibiotic drug to fight HO41. While he is optimistic that the money will be found, Smith said that as it stands the U.S. isn’t currently ready to fight an outbreak.
"I'm hopeful we'll get the additional funds, but I can't say for sure," Smith said. "What I do know is we don't have the resources to fight this as it stands now."