Source: The Washington Post
Dame Sally Davies, Britain’s chief medical officer, has reportedly written to doctors and pharmacies in Britain sounding the alarm on antibiotic resistant gonorrhea.
The sexually transmitted infection is increasingly caused by strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae that resist antibiotic treatment. “Gonorrhoea is at risk of becoming an untreatable disease due to the continuing emergence of antimicrobial resistance,” Davies wrote. The Guardian reports that a recent outbreak of a superbug strain of the disease — one that doesn’t respond to the antibiotic azithromycin — has put Britain on high alert.
Davies urged doctors to use proper treatment protocols. A recent study found that many doctors in Britain still prescribe ciprofloxacin, which hasn’t been recommended for a decade now
Things aren’t much better in the United States: In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave it the centers’ highest ranking for antibiotic resistance, classifying gonorrhea as an “urgent threat.” At that time, the CDC reported that around a third of cases were resistant to at least one antibiotic.
Doctors in the United States are now told to use a combination of the antibiotics ceftriaxone and azithromycin. For a while, this strategy seemed to be working: A recent study found that resistance to ciprofloxacin had dropped from 1.4 percent of gonorrhea cases in 2011 to just .4 percent in 2013. But in 2014, the resistance doubled.
Why does this happen? When researchers look for new antibiotics, they obviously look for ones that are incredibly effective against pathogenic bacteria. But as soon as these antibiotics are released for use by the public, they start to lose their effectiveness. Bacteria are fast-evolving creatures, and individual bacterium are skilled at sharing genes that allow them to survive particular antibiotics. Bacteria can even copy resistance genes from microbes of different strains and species through a process called horizontal gene transfer.