Scientists find first superbug strain of gonorrhoea

LONDON, (Reuters) – Scientists have found a  “superbug” strain of gonorrhoea in Japan that is resistant to  all recommended antibiotics and say it could transform a once  easily treatable infection into a global public health threat.
The new strain of the sexually transmitted disease — called  H041 — cannot be killed by any currently recommended treatments  for gonorrhoea, leaving doctors with no other option than to try  medicines so far untested against the disease.
Magnus Unemo of the Swedish Reference Laboratory for  Pathogenic Neisseria, who discovered the strain with colleagues  from Japan in samples from Kyoto, described it as both  “alarming” and “predictable”.
“Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for  gonorrhoea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable  capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs  introduced to control it,” he said.
In a telephone interview Unemo, who will present details of  the finding at a conference of the International Society for  Sexually Transmitted Disease Research (ISSTDR) in Quebec, Canada  on Monday, said the fact that the strain had been found first in  Japan also followed an alarming pattern.
“Japan has historically been the place for the first  emergence and subsequent global spread of different types of  resistance in gonorrhoea,” he said.
The team’s analysis of the strain found it was extremely  resistant to all cephalosporin-class antibiotics — the last  remaining drugs still effective in treating gonorrhoea.
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection and  if left untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease,  ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.
It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases  in the world and is most prevalent in south and southeast Asia  and sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States alone, according to  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number  of cases is estimated at around 700,000 a year.
British scientists said last year that there was a real risk  of gonorrhoea becoming a superbug — a bacteria that has mutated  and become resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics — after  increasing reports of gonorrhoea drug resistance emerged in Hong  Kong, China, Australia and other parts of Asia.

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