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Sexual Conditions Health Center

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Untreatable Gonorrhea a Global Threat

Sex Bug Becoming Resistant to Last Known Treatment, WHO Warns

Untreatable Gonorrhea continued...

Ironically, one problem with tracking treatment-resistant gonorrhea is technology. State and local health labs used to have to culture gonorrhea bacteria in order to identify them. Now they use faster DNA tests.

But the new DNA tests can't yet tell whether gonorrhea is treatment resistant. That can only be done with old-fashioned cultures. And many labs no longer have the needed equipment or expertise for drug-susceptibility testing. Just as we're facing an onslaught of resistant gonorrhea, we're losing our ability to see it coming.

Gonorrhea Resistance Action Plan

The WHO today released its "global action plan" for controlling the spread of drug-resistant gonorrhea. The plan, to which the CDC contributed, calls for:

  • Correct use of antibiotics, particularly in "key populations, including men who have sex with men and sex workers."
  • Preventing gonorrhea infections, diagnosing them quickly, and treating them appropriately.
  • Keeping close track of treatment failures.
  • Effective drug regulations and prescription policies for antibiotics.
  • Strengthening surveillance for drug-resistant gonorrhea.
  • Building regional networks of laboratories that can culture gonorrhea and measure drug resistance.
  • Research into new ways to detect and monitor drug-resistant gonorrhea.
  • Research into new treatments for gonorrhea.

That last part of the plan -- finding new treatments -- is not far along. The U.S. NIH has only one clinical trial under way. And that trial isn't looking at a new drug. It's only trying to find new combinations of existing drugs that might buy more time against the day gonorrhea becomes untreatable.

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