Strain of Multiple Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea Detected in U.S.

A novel strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to multiple antibiotics was detected in Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced.

This is the first time when gonorrhea that shows resistance or reduced response to five classes of antibiotics has been identified in the U.S. Another case with genetic markers indicating a similar drug response was also identified in Massachusetts.

Both patients were successfully cured with ceftriaxone, the antibiotic currently used to treat gonorrhea. To date, no direct connection between the two individuals has been identified.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause infection in the genitals, rectum, and throat. Anyone who is sexually active can contract the infection, and it is especially common among people aged 15-24 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This strain of multiple drug-resistant gonorrhea has been previously detected in the United Kingdom and Asia-Pacific countries.

A genetic marker common to these two Massachusetts residents was also previously seen in a case in Nevada, which responded to at least one class of antibiotics.

“We urge all sexually active people to be regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections and to consider reducing the number of their sexual partners and increasing their use of condoms when having sex. Clinicians are advised to review the clinical alert and assist with our expanded surveillance efforts,” said Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke.

According to the latest report by the National Center for Health Statistics, STD rates have reached all-time in the U.S. New cases of gonorrhea increased by 53% from 2015 to 2019, and new cases of syphilis rose by 71%

Antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhea is increasing worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. Resistance is caused by unrestricted access to antimicrobial medicines, inappropriate selection and overuse of antibiotics, poor quality antibiotics, and genetic mutations within the bacterium.

Gonorrhea is often asymptomatic or causes only mild symptoms, which may be mistaken for other conditions, such as bladder or vaginal infection.

Symptoms in women may include a painful or burning sensation when peeing, increased vaginal discharge, and vaginal bleeding between periods.

Men with gonorrhea may have:

  • A burning sensation when peeing
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • Painful or swollen testicles

If untreated, gonorrhea may lead to severe consequences, such as infertility or ectopic pregnancy.

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