Further proof that we need more options for treating sexually transmitted infections.
For the first time in the US, a cluster of gonorrhea cases showed increasing resistance to the current treatment method.
These findings were presented today at the 2016 STD Prevention Conference held in Atlanta, GA.
Gonorrhea is a common, often symptomless sexually transmitted infection (STI). The current treatment method is a combination of two antibiotics: a shot of ceftriaxone and a prescription for azithromycin.
That's the only treatment option known to be effective, since gonorrhea has already developed resistance to several other antibiotics.
In July, the CDC issued a report that there is an emerging resistance to azithromycin, possibly due to providers only prescribing one of the two medications.
Alice Mongkongllite / Via buzzfeed.com
And now, new cases of gonorrhea in Hawaii show decreased susceptibility to both ceftriaxone and azithromycin.
The Hawaii State Department of Public Health has been taking cultures of gonorrhea infections when people are diagnosed, then growing an isolate of that infection in a lab, and testing that isolate against different antibiotics.
In April and May 2016, the lab identified gonorrhea isolates from seven patients that showed dramatically higher levels of resistance to azithromycin than we typically see in the US. And in five of the cases, the gonorrhea isolates also showed reduced susceptibility to ceftriaxone.
Basically, that means these isolates are less susceptible than ever to the current medications we have available.
Adam Kuban / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: slice
It’s important to note that these weren’t actually drug-resistant cases of gonorrhea. All patients were cured with the current treatment method.
But the fact that the gonorrhea isolates showed a higher resistance to the drugs than ever before is a harsh warning sign that our current meds may not work much longer.
Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, stressed that providers need to be vigilant about prescribing the proper treatment method, and patients need to actually finish those antibiotics. Even if your symptoms improve, you could still have the infection. That's why it's recommended to always get retested after treatment to confirm the infection is cleared.