Final two available drugs are losing their effectiveness against the disease.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the only two antibiotics left that can treat the sexually transmitted disease, gonorrhea, may soon be ineffective due to the bacterial strain becoming resistant to the drugs.
A story on pbs.org, says a nationwide surveillance program has noted increases in the percentage of samples of gonorrhea that were resistant to one of the two antibiotics, azithromycin and ceftriaxone, currently being used to combat the infections. Physicians are using the two drugs in tandem, hoping that will prolong the time in which the drugs continue to work.
Gonorrhea is quite common in the United States, with a reported 350,000 individual cases being diagnosed in 2014. Often the patients suffer no symptoms, but the disease can lead pain, burning or discharge at the infection site, normally the uterus, anus, throat, mouth, or the penis.
If the condition is left untreated, it can cause chronic pelvic pain for women, and testicular pain in men. In rare cases, the infecting bacteria can enter the blood stream, infecting joints, and in extremely rare cases, reach the heart, which could become fatal.
“The potential for untreatable gonorrhea is a very real possibility in the future,” said Dr. Robert Kirkcaldy. Speaking of the fact that the disease has overcome the effectiveness of a number of antibiotics over the years, Kircaldy added, “We think … it’s a matter of when and not if with resistance. This bug is so smart and can mutate so rapidly.”
Kirkcaldy continued to say one of the most difficult problems with the gonorrhea bacteria is that once it becomes resistant to an antibiotic, it never appears to lose its immunity. Treatments that haven’t been used for decades are still ineffective against the infection.
Companies are working on new antibiotics to treat the condition, but they could be years away, and no one can predict how much longer the current regimen will continue to work.
The experts say it will happen, and right now, they don’t have any other options for treatment. They urge people to take steps to prevent themselves from getting infected.