The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noticed that gonorrhea—one of the most common and easily treatable sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—isn't as easy to treat as it once was. By analyzing samples from over 30 states between the years 2000-2010, researchers found that the STI is steadily becoming resistant to cephalosporins, the only remaining class of antibiotics available to treat the disease.
To date, there are no recorded cases of patients with gonorrhea that couldn't be treated with these antibiotics in the United States…
The researchers called for increased efforts to develop new treatments and a boost in gonorrhea surveillance in order to identify emerging patterns of antibiotic resistance in gonorrhea as they occur.
Over time, gonorrhea has developed resistance to several antibiotics. The CDC currently recommends dual therapy of cephalosporins with either azithromycin or doxycycline. Treatment options would become substantially limited if gonorrhea becomes resistant to cephalosporins, the researchers warned.
Earlier this week, Japanese researchers stated that they actually have found a new strain of the STI that is resistant to all currently available antibiotics. The newly identified strain, called H104, has genetic mutations that make it resistant to cephalosporin antibiotics. Scientists say the new strain could lead to a global health threat if new drugs and effective treatment programs are not developed.
Why does this matter to African-Americans?
For starters, just like HIV/AIDS, African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by STIs such as gonorrhea. According to the CDC, in 2007, approximately 70 percent of the total number of reported U.S. cases of gonorrhea occurred among Blacks. In 2007, the prevalence rate of gonorrhea among Blacks was 662.9 cases per 100,000 population. This rate is 19 times higher than the 2007 rate among whites (34.7 cases per 100,000 population).
Left untreated in women, gonorrhea can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, an abscess on or near the ovaries, chronic pelvic pain and inflammation. In men, it can cause an infection of the urethra; epididymitis (an inflammation and infection of the epididymis-the long, tightly coiled tube that lies behind each testicle and collects sperm); inflammation of the prostate gland and an increase in the risk of developing bladder cancer. And in both genders, untreated STIs can make someone more vulnerable to contracting HIV once they have been exposed to the virus.
And what's really scary about gonorrhea is that it's pretty common to not have any symptoms, especially if you are a man. The key is getting tested for the STI and make sure to ask for it.
Don't assume that they are testing for it.
To learn more about gonorrhea and how it's treated, go here.