In a new warning on the threat posed by drug-resistant infections, British researchers report the last-resort antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea are becoming less effective — raising new concerns about untreatable strains of the sexually transmitted disease.
The report, published online in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, is based on new research showing the last-line antibiotics cefixime and ceftriaxone have become virtually useless in treating gonorrhea in England, Wales, and elsewhere.
"Fears continue that the current cephalosporins will become ineffective," said Catherine Ison from Public Health England who led the research. "Decreased susceptibility and increasing evidence of treatment failures to cefixime, with no new licensed agents, and no alternative drugs to which resistance has not been reported raise the very real possibility that gonorrhea could become untreatable."
The researchers noted recent changes in prescribing practices — designed to limit the use of the antibiotics to preserve their effectiveness — may help to delay the growing threat of multi-drug resistant gonorrhea, which causes with an estimated 106 million cases worldwide every year.
For the study, researchers examined bacterial strains from patients diagnosed with gonorrhea from 50 clinics and laboratories between 2007 and 2011, and tested for their sensitivity to cephalosporins.
The findings show that the effectiveness of cephalosporins declined rapidly between 2007 and 2010, particularly cefixime.
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