The leading gonorrhea antibiotic cefixime has become less effective over the past few years, a new study has shown.
The HPA’s annual Gonococcal Resistance to Antimicrobials Surveillance Programme report revealed a decline in susceptibility to the drug, in some cases leading to treatment failure.
Lab tests on gonorrhoea bacteria samples taken in 2010 showed that 17.4% had a reduced susceptibility to cefixime, up from 10.6% the year before.
The first cases of bacteria with reduced susceptibility to the antibiotic were noted in 2006. Doctors treating gonorrhoea patients are now advised to no longer use cefixime as their first choice.
Rather, they are recommended to use a mix of two drugs: ceftriaxone, an antibiotic which is injected, and azithromycin, which can be taken orally.
Professor Cathy Ison, a gonorrhoea expert at the HPA, said: “Our lab tests have shown a dramatic reduction in the sensitivity of the drug we were using as the main treatment for gonorrhoea. This presents the very real threat of untreatable gonorrhoea in the future.
“We were so worried by the results we were seeing that we recommended that guidelines on the treatment of gonorrhoea were revised in May this year, to recommend a more effective drug.
“But this won’t solve the problem, as history tells us that resistance to this therapy will develop too. In the absence of any new alternative treatments for when this happens, we will face a situation where gonorrhoea cannot be cured.”
“Many patients may feel anxious about having an injection, but this is now the best way of avoiding treatment failure. Patients who refuse the jab will be offered oral antibiotics instead”.
“This highlights the importance of practising safe sex, as, if new antibiotic treatments can’t be found, this will be only way of controlling this infection in the future.”
According to HPA figures, there were 16,145 new diagnoses of gonorrhoea in 2010, a 3% increase on 2009 when there were 15,606.
- Gonorrhoea could become ‘untreatable’ warns HPA (telegraph.co.uk)
- Gonorrhoea may become ‘untreatable’ (independent.co.uk)
- Gonorrhea Becoming Harder To Treat, Cefixime Often No Good Any More (medicalnewstoday.com)