The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has officially reported that gonorrhea has been developing a resistance to the last two antibiotics that we have been able to use to treat it. This means that the STD is going to be untreatable by current medicine since it requires an antibiotic to kill it, but none are sufficient.
There are an estimated 820,000 cases of Neisseria gonorrhea in the United States each year, with more than half of those cases happening to people under 24 years of age. Up until now, doctors used azithromycin and ceftriaxone to treat the problem, something they hoped would stop the trend that the STD has of becoming resistant to drugs. Still, the resistance has started.
There has been a 4x increase in the samples of gonorrhea that were resistant to azithromycin. For ceftriaxone, there was a double increase in resistance. While that doesn't seem all that large yet, it is a red flag for people and researchers about the future of this drug.
"It is low. But what we do know is that this bacteria has demonstrated the ability, repeatedly, to develop antibiotic resistance to the drugs that have been used for it," Robert Kirkcaldy told health and medicine publication, STAT. "The potential for untreatable gonorrhea is a very real possibility in the future."
The problem is that gonorrhea is extremely painful and causes burning and discharge. It also can lead to infertility if untreated. In some rare cases, it can get into your bloodstream and be fatal.
Once a disease is resistant to a specific antibiotic, it will never lose that resistance, which means that once a treatment is gone, it is gone. There has been work on new antibiotics, but it could take a few years or even decades before anything gets on the market.
Kirkcaldy said he wouldn't speculate about when gonorrhea would become resistant to all antibiotics, but he knows it will.
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In the meantime, all we can do is use condoms, get tested, and hope science pulls through.