Nobody wants a sexually transmitted infection, but even more than that, nobody wants a sexually transmitted infection that you cannot get rid of. We have a few already – HIV, Herpes, Hepatitis B. But now one of the world’s most common sexually transmitted infections has been put on “high alert” status by scientists, saying that soon, there will be no medicine that will treat gonorrhea because it has morphed into a “super bug.” Super Bugs are resistant strains of microbes that have learned to replicate in a way that helps them survive medications, so that they become “medication resistant” to many familiar standby antibiotics in the broad-spectrum sense. MRSA is a super bug, but it is not known to be sexually transmitted, and is treatable, just not with medications that treat normal staphylococcus strains.
The worst part of this debacle is that it is primarily the fault of physicians, researchers say, who have been treating the sexually transmitted bacteria that is common in Europe and the United States inappropriately for a decade, despite being given guidelines to the contrary by the Centers for Disease Control.
According to New York Daily News, England’s Chief Medical Examiner Dame Sally Davies says that it has been at a critical level in England since September, where strains of the bacteria have already been identified in individuals.
“Gonorrhea is at risk of becoming an untreatable disease due to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. It is therefore extremely important that suboptimal treatment does not occur.”
The suboptimal treatment mentioned by Davies is a complicated matter for healthcare professionals, because it requires that everyone involved – the physician, the pharmacist, and the patient – follow directions exactly as recommended, and the failure of that to happen at some point in the chain is more common than many people realize. It still remains true that the most common error is that the patient does not finish taking all of his or her antibiotics – usually because people start to feel better after a couple of doses. The problem is, this does not necessarily mean the microbe is dead nor destroyed. Instead, it lives, and is passed to another individual with resistance to common medications that kill it.
Hence the case with gonorrhea – already a medical challenge for the community, because most infected people have no symptoms. A few may have burning with urination or men may have discharge from the penis, but only about 20 percent experience those symptoms, and in many people they are mild so they are ignored and eventually leave although the bacteria, and the ability to transmit it during unprotected sex continues.
A study from earlier this year by Public Health England showed that doctors were predominantly still prescribing the antibiotic ciprofloxacin for gonorrhea even though it has not been recommended since 2005, nearly a decade ago. Davies says she isn’t sure why this trend continues, but that physicians should be aware how dangerous to public health this complication is. Lead author of the study, Dr. Gwenda Hughes, agrees.
“The problem is that doctors are not prescribing the right antibiotics to treat gonorrhea. If people aren’t being given the right antibiotics, the patient won’t be effectively treated.”
According to The New York Daily News, Public Health in England has already identified 16 cases where azithromycin, the preferred antibiotic to treat gonorrhea, is not working. This means those 16 individuals have contracted “Super gonorrhea” and are capable of giving it to others.
The main complication of gonorrhea is that women who contract it are at risk for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, a condition that leads to infertility and ectopic pregnancy in about 40 percent of cases. Ectopic pregnancy can kill a woman by causing massive internal bleeding. Even scarier, any bacteria can enter someone’s bloodstream, causing a condition called Sepsis, which can be fatal.
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