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WHO Issues Warning about Antibiotic Resistant STD

a blog by Claire, June 6, 2012

The sexually transmitted disease (STD) gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease that can cause infertility. The disease, which is typically treated with antibiotics, is now the subject of a World Health Organization warning about cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, which could leave millions of people worldwide without any treatment options.

What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is one of four major curable STDs, which include syphilis, chlamydial infection and trichomoniasis.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 700,000 people in the United States get new gonorrhea infections each year. The highest reported rates of infection are among sexually active teenagers, young adults and African Americans. Many men and women who have the disease do not have any symptoms; however, even a mild case of gonorrhea thtat is left untreated can have serious side effects.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause health problems in men, women and newborn babies including:

  • infection of the urethra, cervix and rectum
  • a significantly increased risk of HIV infection and transmission
  • ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and premature deliveries
  • severe eye infections occur in 30 to 50 percent of babies born to women with untreated gonorrhoea, which can lead to blindness

In women, untreated gonorrhea can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to internal abscesses and chronic pelvic pain, and it can damage the fallopian tubes to cause infertility. PID can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, which is inflammation and swelling in the tubes attached to the testicles. In rare cases, this may prevent a man from being able to father children.

Treating and Preventing Gonorrhea

Typically, gonorrhea is treated and cured with antibiotics; however, the disease has developed resistance to many of the common antibiotics used for treatment, such as penicillin, tetracyclines and quinolones. Now, several countries — including Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom — are reporting cases of resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics, which are the last treatment option against gonorrhea. The WHO has now issued a report calling for greater vigilance among health care providers on the correct use of antibiotics and more research into alternative treatment regimens for gonococcal infections. WHO’s Global Action Plan also calls for increased monitoring and reporting of resistant strains, as well as better prevention, diagnosis and control.

The spread of gonorrhea can be prevented by practicing safe sex, early detection and prompt treatment.

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