A man in Austria has contracted a strain of "super-gonorrhea" that’s unaffected by most antimicrobial drugs, new research claims.
Drug-resistant gonorrhea has been on the rise for decades. Typically, this bacterial infection is treated with two widely used antibiotics: azithromycin and ceftriaxone. However, it appears that more and more strains of the bacteria have evolved a resistance to these drugs, forcing doctors to opt for lesser-used antibiotics.
Now, reported in the journal Eurosurveillance, scientists have reported a gonorrhea strain with an extremely high-level resistance to azithromycin, plus resistance to ceftriaxone, cefixime, cefotaxime, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline.
The patient – a man in his 50s – reportedly started experiencing symptoms in April 2022 after having unprotected sex with a female sex worker in Cambodia.
Testing revealed that the man was infected with a strain of gonorrhea closely related to a strain known as "WHO Q." This strain has been reported a small number of times in the UK and Australia, often linked back to South East Asia. However, it appeared that this multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant strain hadn't been documented before.
The patient was initially treated with ceftriaxone and azithromycin. While this appeared to clear up some of his symptoms, he was still testing positive for gonorrhea two weeks later.
Doctors carried out a number of tests to see which drugs the strain might be susceptible to – and eventually settled on a treatment involving amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, which appeared to work.
Unfortunately, this kind of problem is becoming increasingly common worldwide.
Gonorrhea, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections after chlamydia, can be contracted by unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sex, or by sharing sex toys. Around 10 percent of males and 50 percent of females remain asymptomatic with the infection, but many people experience an unpleasant green or yellow discharge and pain while urinating. If left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in females and infertility in both sexes.
The bacteria that causes gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has progressively developed antibiotic resistance since the 1930s, to the point where the World Health Organization now considers it to be a “high priority” pathogen requiring the development of new antibiotics.
Without these new drugs, gonorrhea cases could soon become untreatable.