Explosion of Drug-Resistant “Super-Gonorrhea” Cases

2024-03-30 09:00:36

A new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates China may be facing a healthcare crisis with an steep rise in the number of cases involving drug-resistant sexually-transmitted disease . . . including “super-gonorrhea.

Up to 98 percent of bacteria samples taken from patients with the STD across 13 Chinese provinces had the ability to sidestep frontline antibiotics, according to a new CDC report.

Gonorrhea had been effectively evading medications for years, but the chief worry among researchers is that China is reporting rates of a strain resistant to one of the last remaining effective antibiotics 40 times higher than those in the US, UK, and Canada.

Gonorrhea-causing bacteria have excelled at working around antibiotics, so much so that the only remaining recommended treatment is ceftriaxone.

n 2022, researchers affiliated with the CDC in China collected more than 2,800 bacteria samples from patients with gonorrhea.

Over 97 percent of the samples were resistant to the drug ciprofloxacin, commonly known as Cipro, while 78 percent resisted treatment with penicillin, another ubiquitous antibiotic.

While the report indicates there are limitations to the study, one of the deep concerns is that the number of cases is being severely under-counted.

Beyond gaps in reporting, many people with gonorrhea have no symptoms and, as such, don’t seek treatment. Additionally, the isolates the researchers did have represented less than 3 percent of reported cases, so it’s possible the prevalence rates don’t represent the isolates of the entire country. Also, the researchers didn’t have detailed case data that might help identify specific risk factors for resistance development, such as the antibiotic treatments patients had. The authors did note that antibiotics are only given by prescription in China.

“These findings underscore the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to address antibiotic-resistant N. gonorrhoeae in China, including identifying factors contributing to this high resistance rate, especially in provinces where the percentage of gonococcal isolates resistant to ceftriaxone is >10 percent,” the authors write.

But they also note that this is not just an alarming finding for China but also a “pressing public health concern” for the entire world. “These resistant clones have spread internationally, and collaborative cross-border efforts will be essential to monitoring and mitigating its further spread,” they write.

Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is one of the most commonly reported sexually-transmitted infections worldwide. Symptoms of infection include genital discharge, bleeding from the reproductive organs in men and women, and potentially infertility. Furthermore, infected mothers can bass the pathogen to their babies, causing blindness and other serious health effects.

I have covered “super-gonorrhea” previously, and it easy to be skeptical of anything the World Health Organization (WHO) deems to be a “global health threat.” However, there are genuine reasons to be concerned about the spread of these diseases, especially for its impact on newborns.

But there is some good news. Scientists have synthesized a new antibiotic that appears effective against “super gonorrhea.” The experimental drug zoliflodacin was found to be just as effective as other frontline antibiotics in a series of medical trials that have recently been conducted.

The trial met its primary goal, with zoliflodacin appearing to clear these infections just as well as ceftriaxone and azithromycin. The drug also seemed to be well-tolerated and there were no serious adverse events or deaths linked to its use reported. Other research has found that zoliflodacin uses a novel mechanism to kill gonorrhea bacteria and that it can fend off drug-resistant strains, meaning these results are even better than they might look at first glance.

“The outcome of this study is a potential game changer for sexual health,” said Edward W. Hook III, protocol chair of the study and an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Alabama, in a statement provided by GARDP. “In addition to the potential benefits for patients with infections with resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the potential lack of cross-resistance with other antibiotics and the oral route of administration will simplify gonorrhea therapy for clinicians worldwide.”

Of course, reminding people of lifestyle choices they can make to prevent catching these diseases would also be extremely helpful. It would be helpful for our country if vast swaths of our country did not routinely expect Big Pharma to resolve each and every health issue that occurs.


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