Public Health England (PHE) have urged people to use condoms with new or casual partners to cut the risk of catching “super-gonorrhoea” which is a highly drug-resistant type of sexually transmitted infections, STI.
The health experts have warned that cases of this antibiotic resistant Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), which may become untreatable, have been detected in London and is gradually spreading across England with 34 confirmed cases since November 2014.
The strain is “highly resistant” to the antibiotic azithromycin, meaning medics are relying on a second drug, ceftriaxone, to treat it. If untreated, gonorrhoea can result in severe complications and lead to infertility or septicaemia in rare cases.
The government health agency has therefore urged people to practice safe sex, warning that if the current cases of this “super gonorrhoea” become resistant to all forms of antibiotic, there is currently no new drug available and the infection could become untreatable.
Head of PHE’s Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) section, Dr Gwenda Hughes, said the current outbreak strain can still fortunately be treated with ceftriaxone. 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 says the agency cannot afford to be complacent but will continue to maintain an enhanced level of surveillance to identify and manage cases of high-level azithromycin resistant gonorrhoea as the bacterium that causes gonorrhoea has been known to rapidly develop resistance to other antibiotics that are used for treatment.
This is a further sign of the very real threat of antibiotic resistance to the ability to treat infections. The number of men and women recorded so far with the infection could well be much higher as there are often no signs a person is infected.
Since September 2015, 11 cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands and in the South of England, five of them in London.