US investigates first two cases of superstrong gonorrhea strain

The US is investigating the first two cases of a super-potent strain of gonorrhea resistant to ANY antibiotic – experts warn poses ‘serious public health concerns’.

  • Both patients are in Massachusetts, state health officials said
  • Contact tracing is underway to trace any other cases of the disease
  • Super gonorrhea is resistant to a variety of available antibiotics

America is investigating its first two cases of a “worrying” super gonorrhea strain showing signs of resistance to a range of antibiotics.

Officials say both patients – who were not named – are from Massachusetts and likely contracted the disease in the state.

There is no connection between the couple, suggesting the sexually transmitted infection (STI) is spreading.

dr Margaret Cooke, the chief of state’s health department, said the discovery was a “serious public health concern”. It’s the first time super gonorrhea has been recorded in the US, after the strain was also discovered in the UK and Austria.

Both patients with the disease - who have not been identified - were in Massachusetts. Contact tracing is underway to uncover other cases (file photo)

Both patients with the disease – who have not been identified – were in Massachusetts. Contact tracing is underway to uncover other cases (file photo)

Gonorrhea is the second most common STI in the US, with approximately 700,000 new cases detected each year.

The disease can cause painful or burning sensations when urinating or uncomfortable vaginal discharge, although some patients are asymptomatic.

Left untreated, the infection can lead to serious complications, including infertility and potentially life-threatening pelvic inflammatory disease in women. In pregnant women, it has also been linked to permanent blindness in newborns.

Cases are treated with an injection of the antibiotic ceftriaxone. Patients may also be offered oral antibiotics such as azithromycin and doxycycline.

But Massachusetts health officials warn that the strain that infected two of its patients showed signs of at least some resistance to almost every drug used to treat the bacteria.

However, they were both successfully treated after receiving ceftriaxone.

A state spokesman declined to confirm to CBS News any further details about the cases, including age, gender, location or time of infection.

None of the cases had recently travelled, although health chiefs said recent travel could not be ruled out by their most recent sexual partners.

Tests by state health officials showed the strain was less susceptible or completely resistant to six out of seven antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea.

It had and was reducing sensitivity to ceftriaxone, cefixime and azithromycin resistant to ciprofloxacin, penicillin and tetracycline.

Whether the strain was also resistant to the antibiotic gentamicin, the scientists didn’t say, but testing in 2019 found that resistance to that antibiotic was already widespread in gonorrhea.

dr Cooke said: “The discovery of this strain of gonorrhea is a serious public health concern [health authorities] were vigilant in detection.

“We urge all sexually active people to get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections and to consider reducing the number of their sexual partners and increasing the use of condoms during sex.”

dr Laura Bachmann, chief medical officer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of STD Prevention, said the case was a “reminder” of the ongoing threat posed by the disease.

“Timely identification and treatment, as well as a rapid public health response, are essential to keep patients safe and reduce the risk of community transmission,” she said.

“We all must remain vigilant as we combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.”

Another case with the penA60 mutation was discovered in Nevada in late 2020 and was successfully treated with an injection of ceftriaxone plus oral azithromycin.

A warning was also issued to healthcare providers across the state.

WHAT IS GONORRHEA?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, or gonococcus.

This bacterium is usually found in penile discharge or vaginal fluid.

It is transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex, or through sharing vibrators or sex toys used without a condom.

The bacteria can infect the cervix, urethra, rectum, throat, or eyes.

It can also be passed from pregnant women to their unborn babies.

Because the bacteria cannot survive long outside the body, gonorrhea is not transmitted by kissing, hugging, sharing towels, sitting on the toilet, or swimming.

About one in ten men and half of women have no symptoms.

However, these may include:

  • Thick green or yellow discharge from genitals
  • pain when urinating
  • Bleeding between periods in women

Treatment usually consists of a single antibiotic injection and pill.

Gonorrhea can be prevented by using condoms during sex and not sharing sex toys.

Source: NHS Choices

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Bradford Betz

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