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Public Health Nightmare as First Cases of 'Incurable Gonorrhea' Emerge

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | about a year and a half ago

Medicine 5

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Jason Koebler reports that the fears of major health organizations have come true with the detection of Gonorrhea that is immune to the last remaining effective oral antibiotic in at least nine North American patients, meaning the era of "incurable" gonorrhea could be close. Scientists have found that 6.7 percent of patients with gonorrhea at a Toronto clinic still had the disease after a round of cephalosporins, the last effective oral antibiotic used to treat the disease. This is the first time cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea has been found in humans in North America. "These are the clinical cases we've been waiting for," says Vanessa Allen of Public Health Ontario. "This is the translation of the lab information into what the clinical consequence is." Gonorrhea is estimated to infect close to 700,000 Americans each year with symptoms including painful urination, abdominal pain, genital discharge, itching, and infertility in women. Less than a year ago, Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's sexually transmitted disease prevention program, wrote that the "threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly." At the time, just 1.7 percent of gonorrhea isolated in the lab were considered resistant to cephalosporins. Allen says her study shows just how fast antibiotic resistance is evolving in the organisms. "Our results aren't generalizable to the overall population because they all came from one clinic," concludes Allen. "But basically, the problem appears worse than we originally thought.""

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5 comments

Vaccine? (1)

kd6ttl (1016559) | about a year and a half ago | (#42536509)

I have read that the US government was once (half a century ago) working on a gonorrhea vaccine (to help protect service members), but that the effort was quashed because, basically, the government didn't want to be seen as encouraging sexual activity. I haven't been able to find where I read that; does it sound familiar to anyone?

Re:Vaccine? (1)

Megane (129182) | about a year and a half ago | (#42537465)

Vaccines are for viruses, rarely for bacteria. Gonorrhea [wikipedia.org] is not a virus.

Re:Vaccine? (2)

kd6ttl (1016559) | about a year and a half ago | (#42538347)

That's not correct. A few bacterial diseases for which there are vaccines:

- Tetanus
- Diphtheria
- Haemophilus influenzae
- Pertussis
- Meningococcal disease
- Pneumococcal vaccine

- Bubonic plague
- Cholera
- Typhoid fever
- Tuberculosis

Bacteria vaccines are very common. The first six are on the US vaccination schedule. There are other bacterial vaccines not commonly given in the US.

Perhaps I belong to the only generation... (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | about a year and a half ago | (#42539285)

...to live out an entire lifetime relatively free of terror of bacterial disease.

I was born in the Penicillin Age.

In the 1950s when I was a little kid I had a lung infection--not bacterial, never diagnosed, so the story isn't totally apropos--but anyway they sent me to the hospital, where among other things I got penicillin injections every day. (In the buttocks. Huge needle, viscous stuff, fairly painful, especially for a little kid in an age where nurses believed the key to managing small kids was to _surprise_ them. It was the kid in the next bed who warned me "It's not a temperature, it's a stick.") I hadn't mastered taking pills, and when I got home they got some stuff from the druggist called "aureomycin." It cost $70 for the smallest bottle I've ever seen. I spat it out and said "I can't take it, it tastes too bad." My dad said "Oh, come now, let me show you," put a drop on his tongue and spat it out and said to mom, "Nobody can possibly take this, it tastes too bad."

Anyway, almost everyone reading this has grown up in times when we take it for granted that big tombstones aren't going to be surrounded by a flock of little tombstones, and that when we get an infection, we go to the doctor and get some pills and follow the label directions and take them all, and it will probably be cured. It seems quaint to imagine _dying_ of bacterial disease.

And slowly, it is all coming back. First it was tuberculosis, never quite fully conquered but the days of the "sanitarium" seemed to be gone. Then "hospital staph." And soldiers coming back from Vietnam with penicillin-resistant syphilis. MRSA. And now "incurable gonorrhea."

Will I live long enough to die of once-routinely curable bacterial infection?

Re:Perhaps I belong to the only generation... (1)

kd6ttl (1016559) | about a year and a half ago | (#42540607)

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret. Happily, human bodies are pretty good at repelling invaders, so we're not necessarily doomed. Maybe the future of bacterial combat will lie in making our bodies react more quickly to infections, and in not over-reacting to infections.

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