New drugs are urgently needed to treat gonorrhoea, a sexually-transmitted disease threatening to veer out of control as it develops resistance to antibiotics, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.
Nearly 80 million people are infected with the disease every year, WHO said in a statement.
Among these, doctors are finding more and more cases of infection unrepeatable by all known antibiotics.
“To control gonorrhoea, we need new tools and systems for better prevention, treatment, earlier diagnosis,” said the WHO’s director of antimicrobial resistance, Marc Sprenger.
“We need new antibiotics, as well as rapid, accurate, point-of-care diagnostic tests.”
Untreated, Gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility in both genders. It also increases the risk of getting HIV.
In extreme cases, the bacteria can spread in the blood to cause life-threatening infections in other parts of the body.
It can be passed directly from a pregnant woman to her baby and cause blindness in the unborn child.
Gonorrhoea resistance to penicillin and tetracycline, a common broad-spectrum antibiotic, first emerged in the 1970s in Asia, spreading to the rest of the world during the early 1980s, according to the WHO.
Resistance to the next level antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, developed in the mid-2000s.
A third generation of drugs called cephalosporins — orally-administered cefixime and injectable ceftriaxone — then came into use.
“But resistance to cefixime — and more rarely to ceftriaxone — has now been reported in more than 50 countries,” said the WHO.
These are so-called multi-drug resistant (MDR) strains.