Gonorrhea may soon become untreatable according to WHO

By Candy Lashkari

According to the World Health organization (WHO), gonorrhea may soon become untreatable and urgent measures need to be taken to prevent and treat the sexually transmitted infection. This is the result of improper use of first line antibiotics which has led to widespread anti microbial resistance to drugs. The cheaper antibiotics no longer have as much effect as they should and the higher antibiotics will soon lose efficacy as well.

"If this continues, it will only be a matter of time before gonorrhea develops resistance to third-generation antibiotics," the health body WHO warned. There have already been reports of treatment failure with oral cephalosporin which is currently the last line of treatment for gonorrhea in Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

Dr Shin Young-Soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific said at a world health experts meet in Manila, "There is no place for complacency with the possible emergence and spread of multi-drug-resistant gonorrhea. New treatments or alternative treatments for gonorrhea, improving monitoring for antimicrobial resistance, and strengthening gonorrhea prevention and management are urgently needed.”

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a common bacterial infection. When left untreated it can cause a number of medical conditions such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infections in newborn children. It also increases the likelihood of acquiring and transmitting HIV.

As per the statistics available from the WHO globally 340 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases or STDs which include gonorrhea occur every year. The age group of people most likely to contract STDs are those between 15 to 49 years.

"We are dealing with a serious issue with the implication that gonorrhea may become untreatable," said Dr Shin Young-Soo, "This will have a major impact on our efforts to control the disease and will result in an increase in serious health-related complications."

Currently there is insufficient monitoring of gonorrhea resistance and the data that is available is insufficient and of poor quality. There is also a lack of reliable data on antimicrobial action on gonorrhea. Dr Shin Young-Soo has called for scaling up the action against gonorrhea.

The head of sexual health at the University of New South Wales, Professor Basil Donovan, says “the Western Pacific has become an incubator for the resistant strains. Our region of the world really has been the incubator of gonorrhea resistance for over 40 years really, ever since antibiotics became available. A lot of that is due to the fact that in many countries in our region antibiotics are freely available. You can buy them at the market, you don't need a prescription. You don't even need a pharmacist.”

These have been the contributing reasons to the overuse of antibiotics which are now ineffective against gonorrhea. This habit of self medication should be controlled before it makes other diseases resistant to antibiotics as well.

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