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11 July 2011
New gonorrhea strain resistant to all antibiotics
by George Atkinson

A super strain of gonorrhea is likely to transform a common and once easily treatable infection into a global threat to public health, said health experts at the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research (currently meeting in Quebec City, Canada).

Swedish researcher Dr. Magnus Unemo successfully identified a previously unknown variant of the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, that he and his team have dubbed H041. H041 is resistant to all cephalosporin-class antibiotics - the only remaining drugs still effective in treating gonorrhea.

"This is both an alarming and a predictable discovery," noted Dr. Unemo. "Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for gonorrhea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs introduced to control it."

Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. The number of new cases in the US alone is estimated at 700,000 annually. Gonorrhea has no symptoms in about 50 percent of infected women and approximately 4 percent of men. When symptomatic, it is characterized by a burning sensation when urinating and pus discharge. If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to irreversible health complications in both women and men.

"While it is still too early to assess if this new strain has become widespread, the history of newly emergent resistance in the bacterium suggests that it may spread rapidly unless new drugs and effective treatment programs are developed," Dr. Unemo concluded.

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Source: Université Laval

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