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Sex infection gonorrhoea 'becoming drug-resistant'

Sex infection gonorrhoea 'becoming drug-resistant'

31st March 2010

The growing resistance to antibiotics threatens to make gonorrhoea extremely difficult to treat, a Health Protection Agency official has warned.

Current drugs are still effective but signs of emerging resistance mean treatments may soon need to be revised, Professor Catherine Ison says. It could mean multiple-dose treatments instead of single doses.

Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK. If left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, and women can become infertile or have ectopic pregnancies

The Health Protection Agency has been keeping a close watch on antibiotic resistance among strains of gonorrhoea for some time and says there is an urgent need for the development of new treatments.  

The current treatment to use is either ceftriaxone or cefixime. These antibiotics are administered as a single dose. Penicillin was used for many years until it was no longer effective and a number of other agents have been used since.  The current drugs of choice, ceftriaxone and cefixime, are still very effective but there are signs that resistance, particularly to cefixime, is emerging and soon these drugs may not be a good choice.

The Health Protection Agency says there is no need to change treatment at the moment, but it is important for doctors to be vigilant. The high number of cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea reinforces the need for people to use condoms with new and casual partners.

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