U.S. on the verge of potentially devastating epidemic of untreatable gonorrhea

Gonorrhea has long been one of the most commonly-reported sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the U.S. and, unfortunately, with rising antimicrobial resistance, it has also become one of the most frightening for public health. We are now down to one effective gonorrhea drug – one final lifeline – and there's nothing lined up to replace it. More frightening still is the fact that the country is on the verge of a potentially devastating epidemic of untreatable gonorrhea and our nation's first responders in public health lack the resources to react.

In order to supplement a crumbling public health infrastructure, NCSD will be briefing the United States House of Representatives and the Senate on April 26th with an urgent request: invest $53.48 million now to prepare for the emergence of drug-resistant gonorrhea, or risk spending $780 million more to our health care system in seven years after the onset of antimicrobial resistance.

"Experts agree that it's not a matter of if gonorrhea resistance will hit, it's a matter of when it will hit," said William Smith , Executive Director of NCSD. "If we aren't prepared when it happens we will have a serious public health crisis our hands, with only a lack of attention and investment to blame."

The money requested will be used where it is needed most – the state and local health departments tasked with responding, monitoring, and containing STD outbreaks in this country. Local and state public health departments act as the frontline for STD prevention, and they are significantly underfunded. Our nation's state and local STD programs are the only institutions able to quickly identify and respond to a resistant gonorrhea outbreak.

Like so many diseases, it targets young people, minorities, and other traditionally marginalized populations. People between the ages of 15-24 years old acquire nearly half of all new STDs and blacks are 20 times more likely to contract the disease. Gonorrhea can lead to sterility in women and men, pregnancy complications, and even death. Having a current STD, like gonorrhea, increases the likelihood of contracting HIV 3 to 5 fold.

"It might be difficult for many Americans to remember a time when antibiotics were not available and common STDs like gonorrhea led to serious health situations," said Smith, "But if we fail to act now, it may very well be a story not of the past, but of our present and our future."


National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD)


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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