If there were any time to stress to people that they really need to “wrap it up” … it would be NOW!

According to new reports, scientists in Japan have discovered a “suberbug” strain of gonorrhea that is immune to current forms of treatment. This new suberbug is called “H041” and has evolved to a point where previous forms of antibiotic medicines have ZERO effect on it whatsoever. Scary.

This new generation of gonorrhea has been labeled a suberbug because it resists antibiotic treatment, and if one cannot be found to kill the bug, then it may pose a serious health threat.

Gonorrhea, known to generations of Americans as “clap,” is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. In the United States alone, an estimated 700,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the CDC, affecting men and women. The disease exhibits no symptoms in about half of women and in about 2% to 5% of men.

When symptoms appear, they typically include a burning sensation when urinating and discharge of pus from the genitals. In women, it can cause chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancies and loss of fertility. In men, it can also lead to loss of fertility. In both sexes, it increases the risk of transmitting or contracting HIV. Untreated, it can prove fatal.

According to Maryn McKenna, author of “Superbug,” Japanese scientists warned in 2007 that they had seen four cases of gonorrhea that did not respond to cefixime, but were treatable with ceftriaxone.

In 2010, Norwegian researchers reported that they had observed two such cases. Then, in January of this year, Japanese researchers reported that they had isolated a strain of gonorrhea from the throat of a sex worker that was highly resistant to both drugs. The new report Sunday revealed further details about the strain.

A team headed by Dr. Magnus Unemo of the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria sequenced the genome of the new strain and found four never-before seen mutations that were responsible for the resistance to the cephalosporins.

Perhaps more frightening, when they grew the bacterium in culture with other strains of gonorrhea, the new strain was quickly able to pass its resistance along to the other strains, increasing their resistance to the drugs 500-fold. That, said the researchers, suggests that the new strain could spread resistance rapidly through the population.

The CDC report issued last Thursday examined more than 6,000 gonorrhea samples obtained in the U.S. since 2000. The study found that the number of samples with at least some resistance to cephalosporins grew slowly during the first part of the decade, but has been increasing recently.

From 2000 to 2006, only 0.02% of the sample showed resistance to cefixime, but by 2009 the proportion had grown to 0.11% Most of the samples with increased drug resistance were obtained from men who have sex with men. The largest growth in incidence during the period was observed in Hawaii (from 0% to 7.7%) and California (from 0% to 4.5%). All of the cases were eventually cured by used higher-than-normal doses of the cephalosporins, but such high doses can have adverse side effects.

The CDC report urged that physicians treat new cases of gonorrhea with cephalosporins and the antibiotic azithromycin in an effort to curb resistance. The agency said it is also working with the National Institutes of Health to identify existing drugs that might be effective against the strains and to develop new antibiotics.

Sounds like the condom industry just scored themselves a big one here! All jokes aside … we hope they find a cure for this. Lord knows we don’t need ANOTHER incurable STD floating around out there.

Sidenote: This bug was found in Japan … the U.S. has no reported cases (yet).

[LA Times, Picture Via: IBT]

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