Thursday, July 14, 2011

Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea

One of the more common sexually transmitted diseases – gonorrhea – is now resistant to three of the four classes of antibiotics traditionally used against it, and is showing signs of increased resistance to the fourth. Gonorrhea became resistant to penicillin and tetracycline in the 1970s and 1980s. In just the past 10 years gonorrhea has become so resistant to the fluoroquinolones that the CDC no longer recommends this class of drugs for treatment of gonorrhea. And now a CDC report reveals that gonorrhea is showing signs of increased resistance to the last class of drugs still generally effective against it, the cephalosporins.

So far, cephalosporin drugs have failed to effectively treat gonorrhea in only three persons – two men in Norway and a woman in Japan. But in U.S. laboratories, the percentage of samples of gonorrhea that show signs of increased resistance to cephalosporins has gone up substantially since 2000. In the Western U.S., for example, 3.3% of the samples showed signs of increased resistance in 2010, compared to 0% in 2000. The numbers vary by state and by region, but the trend is definitely toward increased resistance.

More than 350,000 new cases of gonorrhea are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. A cyclosporine-resistant strain of gonorrhea would be a real problem.

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