The Journal of the American Medical Association has released a study showing that gonorrhea, the second-most common STD in the United States, is becoming completely drug resistant. There are some strains that are already resistant to every class of antibiotics except for one, the cephalosporins, however, according to an article on ThinkProgress Health, seven percent of patients with resistant strains in Toronto remained infected after being treated with cephalosporins, indicating that this class of drugs is becoming less effective.
The CDC has begun warning doctors away from using cephalosporins as the first round of treatment due to concerns about resistance. There are an estimated 700,000 cases of gonorrhea in the U.S. each year, with perhaps half of those cases getting reported to the CDC.
Drug resistant strains of bacterial infections are becoming a major public health concern all around the globe. Two of the biggest concerns in the U.S. are MRSA, a drug-resistant strain of staphylococcus bacteria, and drug-resistant tuberculosis.
According to the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), drug resistance is an evolutionary response to the widespread use of antibiotic substances in society. What accelerates it, however, is inappropriate use of antibiotics, such as prescribing one to a patient that doesn’t need it for the purpose of placating them. Another cause is inadequate diagnosis, causing a health care provider to prescribe a broad-spectrum drug where a specific drug might be better, or as a just-in-case measure while waiting for a more complete diagnosis to come in.
One major cause may be the use of antibiotics in our food supply. NIAID’s information page says that more than half of all the antibiotics produced in the U.S. are used in agriculture. The findings of a survey done by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) indicate that the agricultural community routinely uses antibiotics in their animals’ feed for the purpose of ensuring health and faster growth, resulting in bigger profits.
However, there is another problem. Antibiotics don’t present much of a business incentive; there is more money to be made in developing other drugs than there is in antibiotics, so the pharmaceutical companies spend more of their research and development budgets on drugs that are more likely to turn a bigger profit. In fact, some classes of antibiotics, even newer classes, are already obsolete, with limited plans to develop new ones to replace them.
Untreated gonorrhea can spread to the reproductive organs in the female body, including the uterus and fallopian tubes, and increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies or cause sterility. It can also cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which is hard to treat and even harder to cure. In men, an untreated infection can cause inflammation of the tubes leading to and from the testicles, which can also eventually result in sterility.
In both men and women, untreated gonorrhea can also spread to the blood and the joints, causing arthritis and potentially life-threatening complications.
Because complications can be so severe, it’s important to address the threat of drug-resistant gonorrhea now, before it becomes widespread. Generally, the threat of any drug-resistant strains of infections needs to be addressed through sweeping measures that better define when and how antibiotics should be used in both the medical community and the agricultural community, and better incentive for Big Pharma to develop new drugs. Natural remedies should also be thoroughly explored by the medical community.
For both men and women who have gonorrhea, it’s fairly common to experience pain or burning while urinating, similar to a urinary tract infection, and a green or yellow discharge. It is also pretty common for women to experience no symptoms at all, and occasionally men will experience no symptoms either. Symptoms can also sometimes be mistaken for something else, so it’s important that you discuss your activity with your doctor.
If you suspect you have gonorrhea or any STD, contact your physician immediately.