'Sex Superbug' Makes It To The US

This 1944 poster declares: Penicillin cures gonorrhea in 4 hours. Dr. Troisi says this "superbug" strain is proving to be resistant to the regularly prescribed antibiotics to treat gonorrhea. [Wikipedia image]
Health officials in Houston and elsewhere are renewing the call for people to protect themselves against gonorrhea. A drug-resistant strain of the sexually transmitted disease has made its way into the United States.


This strain of gonorrhea has earned the nickname "sex superbug." 

It first appeared in Japan. Over the last two years, drug-resistant cases have been confirmed in Hawaii and California.  There have been no reported cases in Houston, yet. This area does not perform a specific test to determine whether any gonorrhea cases are resistant to antibiotics. 

Dr. Catherine Troisi is an infectious disease epidemiologist at UT Health Science Center.

"The concern is that gonorrhea will no longer be treatable. And this is very disconcerting if we go back to a pre-antibiotic stage."

Dr. Troisi says gonorrhea, also called "the clap", can usually be knocked out with one of five different antibiotics. But with the resistant strain, treatment becomes much more complicated and expensive. 

"And once the bacteria becomes resistant, it doesn't go back to being non-resistant. It can be spread from person-to-person as this resistant strain. So it's not like you can wait a certain amount of time and go back to using those old antibiotics."

Dr. Troisi cites the CDC when she says 800,000 cases of gonorrhea are reported every year in the United States.  Half of those infected don't realize it, because they don't get tested. 

She says the drug-resistant strain is showing up in men who have sex with men at a rate three times that of heterosexuals.

Gonorrhea infections are associated with a higher risk of HIV.  The bacteria can also cause sterility in men and women.

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