Antibiotic-resistant Gonorrhea Hits North America

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“Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is coming,” was the ominous statement of Dr. Elizabeth Torrone, surveillance team leader in the division of sexually transmitted disease prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last month, a strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea appeared in Canada marking the first appearance of this problem reaching the North American mainland. This new development has put many health officials on alert as they begin to warn the public about the increasing possibility of drug-resistant infection.

This isn’t the first time antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea has presented a danger to the United States. In late 2016, a strain of resistant gonorrhea appeared in eight patients in Hawaii. All of those patients were eventually cured of the infection using a reserve stock of antibiotics not ordinarily prescribed. The continued growth of antibiotic resistance will force medical professionals to deplete the strongest of our antibiotic reserves.

Gonorrhea is already one of the most common STDs in the U.S. Recent reports have shown that rates of the infection are increasing at a record pace. The CDC estimates that there are over 800,000 infections of gonorrhea in the U.S. each year.

Symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating and unusual discharge from the penis or vagina. Left untreated, a gonorrhea infection can cause serious health problems including long-term abdominal pain and pelvic inflammatory disease, which could lead to complications in pregnancy and infertility. Many infections go untreated due to lack of symptoms.

It is very common for a person to be infected with an STD but show no signs or symptoms of the illness. All seven patients treated in Honolulu were displaying symptoms of gonorrhea. Health officials have located and tested at least four additional sexual partners of these patients, but all others tested were found to be negative.

With this strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea appearing in Canada, it seems to be only a matter of time before it shows up in the states. Health officials in the CDC have begun preparing to combat this infection and other infections that have become resistant. Many worry that it is only a matter of time before gonorrhea can no longer be cured.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to gonorrhea or any other STD, you should have STD testing performed. This can sometimes be the best way to know the current status of your sexual health. In order to help prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea infected patients need to be tested, diagnosed and treated appropriately. Please speak to a doctor if you have additional questions about antibiotic-resistant infections.

Article by Robert Francis Curtis

Robert studied at Columbia College Chicago. He has worked as a Care Adviser here at Analyte Health for a while and looks forward to spreading more information about sexual health.

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