Untreatable gonorrhoea on the rise

07 July 2017 - 11:05 By Katharine Child
Image: iStock

Multi-Drug Resistant gonorrhoea is on the rise globally‚ but South Africans don't need to panic as the disease is not common here.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday called for new drugs to be developed for the common sexually transmitted infection‚ which often presents no symptoms but can leave women infertile.

The WHO notes there are few new drugs being developed to treat the bacterial disease‚ which quickly develops resistance to medications.

The WHO estimates there are 78-million cases globally a year‚ often undetected. The disease can be asymptomatic in at least half of all cases.

Only a handful of cases of untreatable‚ fully drug-resistant cases of gonorrhoea have been detected in South Africa.

The first two untreatable cases were detected in Johannesburg in 2012 and reported in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Ranmini Kularatne‚ pathologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said: "Our surveillance shows that gonorrhoea in SA remains treatable with currently used dual antibiotic therapy [two drugs at a time]. However‚ extensively-drug resistance gonorrhoea‚ has been detected in other parts of the world."



"The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection‚ the bacteria evolve to resist them‚" said Dr Teodora Wi from the World Health Organisation.

Wi said: "Some countries — particularly high-income ones‚ where surveillance is best — are finding cases of the infection that are untreatable by all known antibiotics.

"These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg‚ since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhoea is actually more common."

In South Africa‚ doctors have stopped using the older drugs that gonorrhoea is resistant to and use two different antibiotics at the same time that still work.

The disease is monitored‚ with all cases having to be reported to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

The WHO and Kularatne called for new antibiotics‚ better detection and better tests to find where the patients have no symptoms‚ as well as better global monitoring efforts.

Kularatne said in South Africa about 20% of female patients with venereal diseases are diagnosed with gonorrhoea.

Gonorrhoea can increase the risk of contracting HIV and can cause infertility.

The WHO said contracting it can be prevented by "safer sexual behaviour and condom use". - TimesLIVE

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