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New strain of super-gonorrhoea spreading across UK will become untreatable, doctors warn

Couple kissing

If you are going to have sex with a new or casual partner in the UK, you better use a condom because a new strain of super-gonorrhoea is spreading across the country.

couple kissingPublic Health England (PHE) has warned that the new super-gonorrhoea may become untreatable.

Medics have noticed an increase in antibiotic resistant cases of gonorrhoea.

PHE continues to monitor and investigate gonorrhoea cases that are highly resistant to the antibiotic ‘azithromycin’.

The current outbreak strain remains sensitive to the other drug used in first line therapy, ceftriaxone, meaning this drug is effective in treating these cases.

Medics however, warn that if azithromycin becomes ineffective against gonorrhoea, there is no ‘second lock’ to prevent or delay the emergence of ceftriaxone resistance, and gonorrhoea may become untreatable.

The recent increase shows the very real threat of antibiotic resistance.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, Consultant Scientist and Head of the Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Section at PHE, said: “We continue to maintain an enhanced level of surveillance to identify and manage cases of high-level azithromycin resistant gonorrhoea. Since September 2015, 11 cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands and in the South of England, 5 of which were in London. Cases to date have been confirmed in both heterosexual men and women and in men who have sex with men.

“Fortunately, the current outbreak strain can still be treated with ceftriaxone. Nonetheless, we know that the bacterium that causes gonorrhoea can rapidly develop resistance to other antibiotics that are used for treatment, so we cannot afford to be complacent. If strains of gonorrhoea emerge that are resistant to both azithromycin and ceftriaxone treatment options would be limited as there is currently no new antibiotic available to treat the infection.”

Dr Hughes observes that to avoid getting or passing on gonorrhoea would be far better. “Everyone can significantly reduce their risk by using condoms with all new and casual partners,” he says.

To avoid getting gonorrhoea and any other STI, always use a condom when having sex with new or casual partners.

Reducing the number of sexual partners and avoiding overlapping sexual relationships can also reduce the risk of becoming infected.

If you have put yourself at risk of any STI, it is always best to seek advice from your local sexual health clinic.

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