Gonorrhea is becoming harder — and in some cases, impossible — to treat with antibiotics, the World Health Organization announced Friday.
The bacteria that cause the sexually transmitted disease are becoming smarter and more resistant to antibiotics. As a result, a new class of antibiotics needs to be developed to fight them, but researchers say they are currently down to the last effective class.
WHO reports widespread resistance to older and cheaper antibiotics, with some countries reporting 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 gonorrhea is actually more common,” said Dr. Teodora Wi, WHO’s Medical Officer of Human Reproduction.
Gonorrhea is among the types of bacteria that health experts say pose the greatest threat to human health because of their antibiotic resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more than 800,000 new infections occur each year, but because people many don’t have symptoms, fewer than half are detected and reported to their agency.