Medical professionals are both concerned and alarmed after the appearance of what they are calling the “worst case” of drug-resistant gonorrhea the modern world has ever seen, according to Public Health England on Thursday.
An unidentified U.K. man reportedly contracted the multi-drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea after unprotected sexual contact with a woman while he was in southeastern Asia.
This new strain of STD is completely resistant to azithromycin and ceftriaxone, which are considered the first line of defense against a fairly common infection that has been becoming increasingly drug-resistant over the years.
Doctors say that this is the first time that an infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae has displayed such a high resistance to treatment.
This new revelation has caused healthcare professionals to sound the alarm that the possibility exists for widespread infections if the disease is not contained. One of the most frightening aspects of this particular strain of Neisseria gonorrhoeae is that the patient did not present any symptoms of the disease for more than one month after exposure. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, patients infected with common strains of gonorrhea begin experiencing symptoms about two to five days after exposure.
A longer period between exposure and the onset of symptoms can increase the number of possible infections if the patient has unprotected sex with multiple partners.
Experts also say that there is a portion of the population who are asymptomatic, meaning these individuals can have the disease and not experience symptoms, but still be able to infect others.
So far, there have been no new reports of infections by this new strain, other than the unidentified male patient, but health officials are remaining vigilant. The current patient is now being treated.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a bacterial infection that can cause symptoms such as a thick discharge from the sex organs, along with intense pain during urination. The disease can also cause other problems such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and increased susceptibility to infections like HIV.
The bacteria that causes gonorrhea can also cause infections in other parts of the body such as the throat and eyes. Infections of the eyes have been known to cause irreparable vision damage and blindness.
Although infections from sexually transmitted diseases like Neisseria gonorrhoeae are highly preventable, the CDC reports that such infections are still prevalent in the U.S.
There are an estimated 800,000 new infections in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC.