The world has made major progress in the fight against AIDS — an epidemic that over the last four decades has killed 35 million people — as increasing numbers of people gain access to life-saving treatment and the number of deaths each year fall dramatically. But there have also been setbacks, most significantly growing resistance to the drugs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease, has become harder and sometimes even impossible to treat. Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes the STD, is so smart it evolves to develop resistance against the antibiotics used to treat infection. [Read the WHO report here]
WHO said that decreasing use of condom, poor infection detection rates, urbanization and travel, as well as inadequate or failed treatments all contribute to the rising cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. “WHO reports widespread resistance to older and cheaper antibiotics. Some countries — particularly high-income ones, where surveillance is best — are finding cases of the infection that are untreatable by all known antibiotics,” WHO said in a statement. WHO experts said that oral sex is driving the spread of super-gonorrhea. In the United States, about two-thirds of those between 15 and 24 years old have had oral sex.
Teodora Wi, from the WHO, said that when antibiotics are used to treat infections of the throat such as normal sore throat, these get mixed with the Neisseria species in the throat, which can lead to resistance.
What makes matters more worrying is that many people with gonorrhea in the throat are not aware they are infected and are more likely to transmit the infection via oral sex. “In the US, resistance [to an antibiotic] came from men having sex with men because of pharyngeal infection,” Wi said.