Australian Researchers Might Have Found First Step To Stopping Gonorrhea Superbug

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Amid reports that a U.K. man had contracted the world’s first recorded case of “super gonorrhea,” a variant of the sexually transmitted infection that is resistant to all known antibiotics, Australian researchers appear to have unlocked the secret of how the gonorrhea superbug attacks the immune system, opening the doors for potential treatments to be developed in the future.

In a study published Friday in the journal PLOS Pathogens, a team of Monash University researchers led by Dr. Thomas Naderer and Dr. Pankaj Deo documented how the tiny gonorrhea bacteria creates membrane vesicles, which are even smaller agents that interact with immune cells. Medical Xpress further detailed the methodologies used by the researchers, who used super-resolution microscopy techniques to record the split-second moments when the vesicles cause certain immune cells to commit “orchestrated suicide” after an interaction. These immune cells are known as macrophages, and are usually responsible for fighting off bacteria and viruses, and once disabled and killed by the vesicles, that allows the gonorrhea superbug to thrive.

Although the Monash researchers did not come up with any actual treatments, Naderer said in a statement that his team’s discovery could be instrumental in the development of strategies that could fight off the gonorrhea bacteria and alleviate the disease’s symptoms. Furthermore, Medical Xpress noted that the study could offer hope as medical researchers try to combat other types of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

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The new development comes just days after reports suggested that a U.K. man contracted a “super” form of gonorrhea from a woman in Southeast Asia, one month before he started experiencing symptoms. This variant of gonorrhea, according to CNN, is reportedly resistant to the usual combination of azithromycin and ceftriaxone used to combat the disease and marks the first time someone has been found to have gonorrhea with such high-level resistance to both antibiotics.

In addition to possibly offering some hope in the light of the recent reports of “super gonorrhea” being detected in the U.K., the research also came at a time when gonorrhea is a bigger problem than ever in Australia, Medical Xpress wrote. Aside from statistics showing a 63 percent increase in gonorrhea diagnoses over the past five years, the report noted that gonorrhea superbugs, which have been detected all across Australia in recent times, are now harder to treat than ever before.