Health authorities say they're very concerned about a new strain of gonorrhea that has been detected in the US for the first time. The strain, found in two Massachusetts residents with no known connection to each other, showed resistance to every kind of antibiotic used to treat the bacterial sexually transmitted infection, the state's Department of Public Health said in a press release. The patients were successfully treated with a double dose of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, considered the last line of defense against the infection, but experts say it's time for a new approach before even that option is no longer viable, CNN reports.
"We are down to very few—very few—options. The concern is we’ll get to a place where there are no options," Dr. Helen Boucher, chief academic officer of the Tufts Medicine health system, tells the Boston Globe. "This is a common infection in young healthy people," says Boucher, a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. "There’s only one thing, and that one thing may not work any more." Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a member of the CDC workgroup on gonorrhea, is seeking to win FDA approval for a test that would tailor antibiotic treatment to the susceptibilities of different strains, reports CNN.
The Massachusetts DPH says the strain found in the state has previously been detected in the UK and Asia-Pacific countries but never before in the US. The agency warns that gonorrhea can "present without symptoms, and if left untreated, can result in pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and other health problems." In a statement, Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke said, "We urge all sexually active people to be regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections and to consider reducing the number of their sexual partners and increasing their use of condoms when having sex." STD rates rose sharply during the pandemic and Massachusetts says lab-confirmed cases of gonorrhea quadrupled between 2009 and 2021. (Read more gonorrhea stories.)