U.S. health officials have identified a cluster of gonorrhea infections that show sharply increased resistance to the last effective treatment available for the country’s second most commonly reported infectious disease.
The findings from a cluster of Hawaii cases, presented Wednesday at a conference on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, represent the first cluster of cases in the United States that have shown such decreased susceptibility to the double-antibiotic combination used when other drugs have failed. If the bacteria continue to develop resistance, that end-of-the-line therapy ultimately will fail, and an estimated 800,000 Americans a year could face untreatable gonorrhea and the serious health problems it causes, health officials said.
This latest news about antibiotic resistance came as world leaders gathered at an unusual meeting at the United Nations to address the rising threat posed by superbugs, microbes that can’t be stopped with drugs. Leaders adopted a joint declaration committing them to address the root causes of antimicrobial resistance, especially in human health, animal health and agriculture.
Nations called for better use of existing tools to prevent infections in humans and animals, including farmed fish. Norway’s prime minister spoke about how her country has been vaccinating every single “baby salmon, just like small kids,” and as a result, has cut antibiotic use in one of its principal foods and exports to virtually zero.
In the United States, drug-resistant gonorrhea already is one of the country’s three most urgent superbug threats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In each case, as with other diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, overexposure to antibiotics has allowed the particular germ to more rapidly develop resistance.
CDC warned this summer that evidence of gonorrhea’s diminished vulnerability to one of the last-resort drugs, azithromycin, was emerging nationwide. But it said the other antibiotic, ceftriaxone, was still effective.
That’s why the latest findings are so distressing for health officials. It means current treatment options are in jeopardy, said Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s division of STD prevention. “What’s unique about this cluster now identified in Hawaii is that these strains, we’ve really never seen before,” she said.
Laboratory tests of the gonorrhea samples collected from seven people in Honolulu in April and May showed resistance to azithromycin at “dramatically higher levels” than typically seen in the United States, according to researchers from Hawaii’s state health department. Five of the seven samples also showed increased resistance to ceftriaxone.
SOURCE: Lena H. Sun
The Washington Post