CDC: Gonorrhea Drug Resistance Imminent

Nearly a decade after the CDC removed Cipro as a recommended treatment for gonorrhea cases due to drug-resistance comes concern that a replacement medication may be following its predecessor's doomed footsteps. According to a new report from the government agency, signs of emerging drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea could spell a larger disaster this time around. 

Currently, the CDC advises treatment of gonorrhea infections with a combination of a cephalosporin injection and oral dose of antibiotics. But new evidence from around the globe reported by the CDC this month suggests that evolved strains of the STD are resistant to humanity's latest and last-known weapon against gonorrhea.

The Verge breaks the report down:

The researchers found that increased resistance leads to an increase in gonorrhea cases. That's because being infected with a resistant strain lengthens the amount of time it takes to treat it, giving the infected party more time to pass it on to others.

Overall, the study suggests that if 10 percent of gonorrhea samples are resistant to the recommended treatment, then there will be a subsequent 7 percent increase in gonorrhea. Given that 820,000 cases are diagnosed in the US each year, a 10 percent cephalosporin-resistance rate would represent 57,400 additional cases — all of which would be extremely hard to treat. And this number could become even higher over time because of the cumulative effect of resistance. "Based on the experience with other drugs previously used to treat gonorrhea," said Sarah Kidd, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC who did not participate in the study, in an email to The Verge, "the emergence and spread of cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea in the United States appears imminent."

To be clear, to date, no cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea strains have emerged in the U.S. despite being reported in Spain, Japan and France. Unfortunately, if the new resistance continues to spread, "it won't be possible to return to ciprofloxacin as a first line treatment regimen for gonorrhea" as we pull cephalosporin out of the lineup. The CDC admits that researchers don't yet know where to turn to battle the impending gonorrhea evolution.