Here's what you need to know about the new, untreatable strain of gonorrhea.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention has long suspected that gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease, was becoming less and less susceptible to treatment. This week, their suspicions were confirmed when a new, untreatable gonorrhea strain was discovered in Japan. Study: Sex And The City Leads To Frank Discussions About STDs
The strain, otherwise known as the gonorrhea super bug, is formally named H041 and is multidrug-resistant, which means no known form of antibiotic can treat it. Though gonorrhea is hardly the worst STI or STD to get, it is the most common. Experts believe this strain could spread quickly through the world, so here are 5 things you need to know about the gonorrhea super bug.
1. This new super strain is but a result of evolution. Some strains of neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterial organism that causes gonorrhea, are more susceptible to antibiotics than others. And while antibiotics kill off most of the bacteria, there is a batch of surviving bacteria left behind that can reproduce and "pass on their more-robust-than-average genes to their offspring." The more and more this process repeats, the more likely it is that this bacteria grows to be drug-resistant.
2. Men and women with gonorrhea often don't show symptoms. Some people may not experience anything at all, others will see symptoms between one and 14 days after they've been infected. And according to the CDC, there are 700,000 new cases of gonorrhea in the U.S each year and 340 million new cases globally. The infection can be contracted and passed through oral, vaginal and anal sex so it's important for partners to get tested regularly as men and women don't often show symptoms. If a woman does have symptomatic gonorrhea, she may experience vaginal discharge, frequent urination and pain or burning when urinating, as well as pain between periods. As for men, they may experience pain during urination and discharge from their penis.
3. Doctors treat gonorrhea with cephalosporin. Since gonorrhea is resistant to penicillin, tetracycline and fluoroquinonlines, doctors use cephalosporin and/or azithromycin and doxycycline to treat the infection. However, when the strain becomes resistant to cephalosporin, there won't be any treatment readily available. But for the time being, the CDC recommends you use dual therapy to treat the infection, i.e., use more than one drug. Once you receive treatment, be sure to finish all of your medication and abstain from sex until you do so, as means to eliminate the risk of passing it along to another partner.
4. Untreated gonorrhea can cause a multitude of problems. For women, gonorrhea can cause painful intercourse, pelvic inflammatory disease or an ectopic pregnancy, which could lead to lifelong infertility. For men, it can cause tender, swollen testicles and epididymitis which can also lead to infertility. If left untreated, gonorrhea can spread to your blood and joints, and people with gonorrhea can more easily contract HIV. Other problems can include arthritis, heart problems, and serious eye infections in babies born to mothers with gonorrhea.
5. Abstinence and condoms are the best ways to prevent STDs. The CDC suggests abstinence and condoms work best to reduce the risk of gonorrhea. If you or your partner are experiencing any of the symptoms, you should stop having sex and schedule an appointment with your doctor as quickly as possible. And in the chance that you are positive for the disease, you should notify all your recent sex partners so that they, too, can be checked and treated.