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STD increasingly resilient to antibiotics, CDC warns

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A sexually-active person is at risk of contracting gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease which is more common than most realize.

Typically, people only know they have gonorrhea if they are tested. So, thousands of people spread the disease to others without evening knowing.

New research shows the bacterium that causes gonorrhea is quickly becoming resistant to treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700,000 people are infected with gonorrhea every year, but that's only the cases that are actually reported.

This STD typically shows no symptoms and is outsmarting every treatment made to cure it.

Dr. Gail Bolan is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

 "We are now at the end of the pipeline and have no drugs to turn to if it becomes resistant to current antibiotics," Bolan says.

Recent laboratory data shows the bacterium has adapted to the antibiotic pill that's been used for the past few years.

"We are changing our treatment guidelines and sounding the alarm that we are down to the last, most effective drug," Bolan warns.

The last resort is an injection, plus a second antibiotic given by your doctor.

Then, the patient should be tested a week later to ensure there hasn't been a mutation around the treatment.

For now, this allows doctors and pharmaceutical drug makers to bide time until another antibiotic can be made keeping the population just one step ahead of a potentially uncontrollable spread.

"We're concerned that if we don't get new drugs in the pipeline, we could eventually reach the point that we have untreatable gonorrhea in this country," said Bolan. "That's a serious problem."

Left untreated, gonorrhea can cause chronic pelvic pain, infertility and increase the risk of HIV.

So, get tested and if you diagnosed with the disease, seek immediately treatment because right now one remaining antibiotic is the only shot doctors have to combat this silent STD.

The CDC says latex condoms can reduce the risk of transmission, but abstinence or a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship is your best bet at staying safe.

Additional Information:

The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website under a section entitled, "Gonorrhea –CDC Fact Sheet" (Source:

  • Gonorrhea is an STD caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium which infects the mucous membranes of the reproductive tract (cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, urethra) as well as the membranes in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus.
  • About 700,000 people in the United States get new gonorrheal infections every year.
  • Less than half of these infections are reported to the CDC.
  • Transmitted through sexual contact: penis, vagina, mouth, anus.
  • Ejaculation does not have to occur.
  • Can spread prenatally from mother to baby during birth.
  • You can get re-infected after being treated.
  • Any sexually active person is at risk.
  • Highest reported rates of infection are among sexually active teens, young adults and African Americans.
  • Many men with gonorrhea do not have symptoms but may experience white, yellow or green urethral discharge (1-14 days after infection).
  • Many women with gonorrhea do not have symptoms but some may have increased vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods. Many mistake symptoms for a bladder or vaginal infection.
  • Rectal infections can have symptoms of discharge, anal itching, soreness, painful bowel movements.
  • Pharyngeal infection may cause sore throat.
  • If untreated, gonorrhea can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to internal abscesses and chronic pelvic pain. PID can also cause infertility or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
  • If untreated, gonorrhea may cause infertility in men, although rare.
  • Untreated gonorrhea can spread to the blood and cause disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI), characterized by arthritis, tenosynovitis and/or dermatitis. DGI can be life-threatening.
  • Untreated gonorrhea can increase the risk of acquiring/transmitting HIV.
  • A DNA test can diagnose gonorrhea. A culture can also be used.
  • Gonorrhea is curable with a dual therapy. The two drugs can stop the infection but will not repair any permanent damage done.
  • Those diagnosed should tell all recent anal, vaginal or oral sex partners so they can seek treatment.
  • Those diagnosed must avoid having sex until treatment is completed and there are no symptoms.
  • Latex condoms reduce the risk of transmission. Abstinence and sex in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a tested, uninfected partner is also recommended.

The following information was obtained from the website in an article entitled, "New Treatment Guidelines for Gonorrhea: Antibiotic Change" (Source:

  • Cephalosporins are currently recommended to treat gonorrhea in the United States. For the past few years, providers have used combination therapy with either cefixime, an oral cephalosporin, or ceftriaxone, an injectable cephalosporin, plus a second antibiotic, to treat this common STD.
  • Recent laboratory data suggest that the effectiveness of cefixime for treating gonorrhea may be declining.
  • The CDC no longer recommends the routine use of cefixime. Instead, CDC now recommends using ceftriaxone along with a second antibiotic to treat gonorrhea.
  • CDC now recommends combination therapy with ceftriaxone 250 mg as a single intra-muscular dose, plus either azithromycin 1 g orally in a single dose or doxycycline 100 mg orally twice daily for 7 days.
  • In instances where ceftriaxone is not available, CDC recommends cefixime 400 mg orally, plus either azithromycin 1 g orally or doxycycline 100 mg orally twice daily for 7 days.
  • For patients with a severe allergy to cephalosporins, CDC recommends a single 2-g dose of azithromycin orally.
  • CDC recommends a test of cure for these patients 1 week after treatment, and this is an important change in CDC's treatment guidelines.
  • Any suspected treatment failure should be reported to CDC through local or state public health officials within 24 hours.

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