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UK reports high-level gonorrhea resistance to Azithromycin and Ceftriaxone

The report marks the first global detection of gonorrhea impervious even to the recommended dual-antibiotic treatment as well as to other commonly used drugs.

UK reports high-level gonorrhea resistance to Azithromycin and Ceftriaxone
Image showing gram strain of N gonorrhea (Image Credit: Pixnio)

Health officials in the United Kingdom announced today the detection of worlds first super multidrug-resistant gonorrhea which can be a cause of serious concern towards global drug resistance.

According to a full report from the Public Health England, the N gonorrhea strain was isolated from a heterosexual man who sought sexual health services care in England early this year. The man said to have contracted the disease while he was in south-east Asia.

Doctors empirically treated the man with ceftriaxone, followed by spectinomycin. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also detailed the case today in its latest weekly communicable threat report, which said the isolate had a ceftriaxone minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 0.5 milligrams per liter (mg/L), indicating resistance, and an azithromycin MIC of more than 256 mg/L, showing high-level resistance.

Gwenda Hughes, PhD, consultant scientist at Public Health England (PHE) said in a statement that the isolated strain of Neisseria gonorrhoeae is completely impervious to first-line treatment of the disease, a combination of two antibiotics—azithromycin and ceftriaxone.

"We are monitoring this case to make sure that the infection is effectively treated with other options and the risk of any onward transmission can be controlled," she said, adding that the PHE actively monitors the antibiotic resistance in gonorrhea and other potential treatment failures.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) released data on the global rise in multidrug-resistant gonorrhea, warning that widespread treatment failure is likely in the upcoming years unless new antibiotics are developed. At the time of the report, Japan, France, and Spain had reported strains of gonorrhea that were resistant to all current treatment options.

WHO also reported that N gonorrhea, known for its ability to quickly mutate and develop resistance, is becoming resistant to cefixime and ceftriaxone, the drugs which the WHO recommends for use in combination with azithromycin for treating most gonococcal infections.

In its weekly report, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the event is significant, considering the lack of alternative treatments for gonorrhea. "Further spread of such strains can threaten the effectiveness of the currently recommended treatment."



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