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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Untreatable Gonorrhea Spreading

A potentially dangerous sexually transmitted disease that infects millions of people each year is growing resistant to drugs and could soon become untreatable, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

Scientists reported last year finding a "superbug" strain of gonorrhea in Japan in 2008 that was resistant to all recommended antibiotics and warned then that it could transform a once easily treatable infections into a global health threat.

"This organism has basically been developing resistance against every medication we've thrown at it," said Dr. Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, a scientist in the agency's department of sexually transmitted diseases. This includes a group of antibiotics called cephalosporins currently considered the last line of treatment.

"In a couple of years it will have become resistant to every treatment option we have available now," she told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of WHO's public announcement on its 'global action plan' to combat the disease.

The WHO said those fears are now reality with many more countries, including Australia, France, Norway, Sweden and Britain, reporting cases of the sexually transmitted disease resistant to cephalosporin antibiotics.

"Gonorrhea is becoming a major public health challenge," said Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, from the WHO's department of reproductive health and research. She said more than 106 million people are newly infected with the disease every year.

. . . It also increases the chances of infection with other diseases, such as HIV.

. . . Francis Ndowa, formerly the WHO's lead specialist for sexually transmitted infections, said gonorrhea has not only adapted to elude antibiotics but developed less painful symptoms, increasing its survival chances.

"They used to say that if you have urethral gonorrhea you go to the toilet to pass urine, it would be like passing razor blades. It was that painful," he explained. "Now people with gonorrhea sometimes...only notice the discharge if they look when they pass urine, it's not that painful anymore.

"So the organism has readjusted itself to provide fewer symptoms so that it can survive longer. It's an amazing interaction between man and pathogen."
Evolution in action.

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