New gonorrhea 'superbug' is drug resistant

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PHOENIX – Gonorrhea is one of the three most common sexually transmitted diseases, and now a new strain is becoming drug resistant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 700,00 people are infected each year and women are four times more likely to contract the disease.

“Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States,” Dr. Mark Hong of Arizona Urology Specialists said. “No. 1 is Chlamydia, and, of course, those two go together like peas in a pod.

To make matters worse, women generally do not exhibit any symptoms. Men, however, do.

“Symptoms are not always the most accurate way to know whether you’ve got it or not,” Hong said.

Symptoms can appear within two to six days of infection. In men, symptoms can include burning or painful urination, increased urinary frequency or urgency, discharge from the penis, tender or swollen testicles, and a sore throat.

For women, the symptoms and be quite mild and non-specific, which can lead to an incorrect diagnosis. Those symptoms can include vaginal discharge, burning or pain while urinated, sore throat, painful sexual intercourse and sever pain in the lower abdomen if the infection spreads.

“Some women just feel like they maybe have a urinary tract infection,” Hong said.

Left untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic scarring and infertility. In women, that scarring can lead to ectopic pregnancy, which can be fatal. In addition, women who are pregnant when they are infected can pass the disease to the baby.

The key, according to Hong, is to be aware of the risk and take appropriate precautions.

“You can get gonorrhea – or any sexually transmitted disease – from any form of sexual contact whether that be vaginal intercourse, anal, or all kinds of different ways,” Hong said. That also includes oral sex.

Gonorrhea in its current form is treatable with a standard set of antibiotics. The new strain of the bacteria, which is called H041, is different. It’s resistant to antibiotics.

Doctors in Japan and Norway are seeing cases of the new drug-resistant gonorrhea, but so far, no instances have been reported in the U.S. Hong said it probably won’t reach the U.S. for some time.

“Even if it does, we still have plenty of time in order for us to try and find other antibiotics that will cure this,” he said.