- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2017

Gonorrhea is becoming more difficult to treat around the globe, with health officials describing the sexuality transmitted infection as “smart” and resistant to new antibiotics, according to data released Friday by the World Health Organization.

“The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart,” Dr. Teodora Wi, a medical officer in the department of human reproduction at WHO, said in a statement. “Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them.”

The global health body also raised the red flag surrounding the slow pace of research and development for new drugs to treat the disease, calling the field “relatively empty, with only three new candidate drugs in various stages of clinical development,” the statement said.

“To address the pressing need for new treatments for gonorrhea, we urgently need to seize the opportunities we have with existing drugs and candidates in the pipeline. In the short term, we aim to accelerate the development and introduction of at least one of these pipeline drugs, and will evaluate the possible development of combination treatments for public health use,” Dr. Manica Balasegaram said in the statement. He is the director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership.

“Any new treatment developed should be accessible to everyone who needs it, while ensuring it’s used appropriately, so that drug resistance is slowed as much as possible,” he added.

Seventy-eight million people are infected with gonorrhea each year, according to WHO estimates, with the infection disproportionately affecting women and leading to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, and an increased risk of HIV.

In the U.S., more than 800,000 new cases of gonorrhea emerge each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but its typically asymptomatic nature makes it difficult to report. Some symptoms include discharge from the urethra or vagina.

Since the 1980s, gonorrhea has shown a fortitude in outgrowing antibiotics like penicillin and tetracycline, and then fluoroquinolones in the 1990s.

Current medication recommendations in the U.S. include a combined therapy of oral and injection cephalosporins antibiotics. Before 2012, these drugs were prescribed separately to treat gonorrhea, but the infection continues to outpace treatments.

Of the countries surveyed, the WHO found that reported gonorrhea cases in 50 of them were resistant to the combined treatment of cephalosporin antibiotics and has advised doctors to instead combine the injection medication, ceftriaxone, with an oral drug azithromycin.

The latest WHO report, comprised of data from 77 countries, also highlighted that decreasing condom use, increased urbanization and travel, poor infection detection rates and inadequate or failed treatments have all contributed to the increase in the spread of the sexuality transmitted infection.

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