Gonorrhea is becoming antibiotic-resistant in China

A new study that was published in the journal PLOS Medicine has found that Neisseria gonorrhoeae strains that are resistant to azithromycin and have decreased susceptibility to ceftriazone are prevalent in China.

According to the study, the prevalence of a dual resistance in N. gonorrhoeae rose between the years 2013 and 2016, showing that treatment with azithromycin and ceftriaxone, which is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a remedy for the sexually-transmitted infection gonorrhea, may not be effective in China.

To facilitate the study, minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of azithromycin and ceftriaxone were identified for 3,849 clinical isolates from patients with gonorrhea who provided samples from 2013 to 2016 in seven provinces in China.

“Ceftriaxone is the last drug that we have for the treatment of gonorrhea. We don’t have any replacement drugs after ceftriaxone right now,” said Vanessa Allen, who is chief of medical microbiology at Public Health Ontario, who was not involved in the research.

“It’s almost like the bug is running faster than our ability to develop safe and effective drugs. What is the next chapter if no new drugs are developed? And it’s really not clear.”

Allen said there are two antibiotics that can serve as replacement to azithromycin and ceftriaxone. One is called gentamicin, but it causes serious side effects, such as kidney and hearing problems. The other one is called mereponem. However, since it is under the same classification of drugs as ceftriaxone, there is a great chance that it would also be no good against the infection.

“It is important that clinicians be on high alert to recognize gonorrhea treatment failures so that they can be reported promptly to public health officials,” the study authors said.

Gonorrhea is the most prevalent sexually-transmitted disease in the world, with around 78 million cases reported every year. It can spread via genital or oral sex. If left untreated, gonorrhea can result in the inflammation of the cervix, anus, throat, or urethra. In worst-case scenarios, it develops into pelvic inflammatory disease in women and infertility in both genders. Pregnant women who are infected with gonorrhea can pass their disease to their unborn children, which can lead to the child developing negative conditions, such as eye infections.

Once gonorrhea spreads throughout someone’s joints, the risk of death is increased. (Related: Read This Before You Get In Contact With Someone Sick From Gonorrhea.)

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