Researchers have found a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea in North America, prompting concerns that the sexually transmitted infection may soon be incurable.
The strain, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is resistant to the last known oral antibiotic to effectively treat gonorrhea: the drug cefixime.
Nine different patients at a sexual health clinic in Toronto between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011 tested positive for the sexually transmitted disease after they were treated orally.
The findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Previously, there had been a couple individual case reports of untreatable gonorrhea cases in the United Kingdom, Austria, France, Norway, and Japan,” U.S. News & World Report reported Tuesday.
“Last year, both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control warned that untreatable gonorrhea—the world’s second most common sexually transmitted infection—could soon be a reality as the bacteria showed increasing resistance to cephalosporins in lab tests,” wrote the publication.
The nine patients were successfully treated and cured when administered the antibiotic ceftriaxone via injection, but the CDC warns that a “parallel increase” in gonorrhea’s resistance to that drug is also underway, reported U.S. News & World Report.
The agency issued a warning in August 2012 that oral treatment for gonorrhea was no longer recommended, stating that treatment with ceftriaxone via injection is “the only one recommended drug proven effective for treating gonorrhea.”
The CDC has called the development of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea “a growing public health concern.” Antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea started appearing as early as the late 1990s.
“Given the ability of N. gonorrhoeae to develop antibiotic resistance, it is critical to continuously monitor gonococcal antibiotic resistance and encourage research and development of new treatment regimens for gonorrhea,” wrote the CDC on its website.