Untreatable gonorrhea cited as major world threat

The World Health Organization warns that antibiotic resistance to gonorrhea is growing and that the world is running out of treatment for this sexually transmitted disease. The U.N. agency is calling for greater vigilance on the correct use of antibiotics and more research into alternative treatment options.

The World Health Organization reports an estimated 106 million people are infected with gonorrhea every year. It warns there are few treatment options available for these infections.

A scientist at the agency’s Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, says there will be considerable health consequences if gonorrhea becomes untreatable.

“For men and women of reproductive age, they could become infertile,” said Lusti-Narasimhan. “For women who are pregnant and they could have ectopic pregnancies or spontaneous abortions that could increase maternal deaths. And for infants born to these women with untreated gonorrhea, we already know that over half of them develop severe eye infections and many of these could lead to blindness.”

Gonorrhea is one of four major curable sexually transmitted infections. The so-called superbug that causes gonococcal infections is an organism that has developed resistance to virtually every class of antibiotics that exists.

The World Health Organization is releasing a global action plan that calls for increased monitoring and reporting of resistant strains, as well as better prevention, diagnosis and control of gonococcal infections.

Health officials say gonorrhea can be prevented through safer sexual intercourse. They say early detection and prompt treatment, including of sexual partners, is essential to control sexually transmitted infections.

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