A highly antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea is quickly spreading throughout the world, according to reports from the United Nations World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Neiserria gonorrhoeae or N. gonorrhoeae, has been progressively evolving resistance to treatment for many years.
Sulfanilamides, which were originally used to treat streptococcal infections, quickly found its place as the treatment of choice for gonorrheal infections during the early to mid 1900s. Despite its potentially unpleasant side effects, it proved extremely effective. However, by the 1940s N. gonorrhoeae had become resistant to the drug, forcing researchers to find another treatment.
By the 1980s N. gonorrhoeae had defeated nearly every new antibiotic brought to bear against it. Drugs such as chloramphenicol, tetracycline, erythromycin, and streptomycin, each fell in rapid succession before the bacterial juggernaut.
Scientists were yet again forced to work at a feverish pace to avoid the epidemic that loomed if new treatments were not quickly developed. During this time, researchers developed a class of drugs called fluoroquinolones which includes the anthrax fighter ciprofloxacin, also known as Cipro.
Once more science was able to turn the tides against the microbe, which was progressively evolving into a more formidable foe with each mutation. Finally by 2007, fluoroquinolones were vanquished by the onslaught of the chameleon-like organism and a new round of combat began.
Cephalosporins such as Ceclor and Keflex eventually emerged as what health professionals called the last line of defense in a war scientists were clearly losing. Subsequently, cephalosporins have recently been shown to be becoming increasingly ineffective at treating the infection. Accordingly, health professionals now recommend treating N. gonorrhoeae with a combination of an injectable ceftriaxone (Rocephin) and an oral cefixime (Suprax).
Scientists have cited the overuse of antibiotics which helps to augment the naturally occurring mutations within the organism.
At present there have been no reported unsuccessful treatments of the disease using the recommended method. According to WHO scientist Dr. Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, however, it is only a matter of time, perhaps a couple of years before the bug becomes completely resistant to all forms of treatment.
There are an estimated 106 million new cases of gonorrhea reported each year with 309,341 cases in the U.S. alone for the year 2010, with a reported spike in new infections currently under way across the nation.