Massachusetts health officials on Thursday reported two cases of a novel form of gonorrhea that is resistant to different types of antibiotics. These are the first cases of a “gonorrhea strain” reported in the US.
“The Department of Public Health (DPH) announced today that it has detected a new strain of gonorrhea in a Massachusetts resident that showed a reduced response to multiple antibiotics and another case with genetic markers indicating a similar drug response,” DPH said in a statement.
Patients have successfully recovered after receiving treatment with ceftriaxone, the currently prescribed antibiotic. However, a new strain of gonorrhea is resistant to various antibiotics.
“This is the first time that resistance or reduced response to five classes of antibiotics has been identified in gonorrhea in the United States,” DPH said.
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“Both cases in Massachusetts were successfully treated with ceftriaxone, the antibiotic currently recommended for the treatment of gonorrhea. To date, no direct link between the two individuals has been identified,” DPH continued.
Although the novel strain is new to the United States, DPH claims it has been found in the Asia-Pacific region and the United Kingdom.
“This strain of gonorrhea has previously been found in Asia-Pacific countries and the United Kingdom, but not in the US. A genetic marker common to these two Massachusetts residents was previously found in Nevada, although that strain retained sensitivity to at least one class of antibiotics. Collectively, these cases are the most common strains of gonorrhea in the US. An important reminder that antibiotics are less responsive to a limited arsenal.
The Department of Public Health has issued a warning to medical professionals and laboratories about this novel form of gonorrhea.
“The alert recommends increased use of laboratory culture testing for individuals with symptoms of gonorrhea to detect antibiotic resistance, and reminds providers who submit gonorrhea specimens to state public health laboratories that DPH and CDC’s surveillance may support further resistance in this organism. The alert recommends the use of high-dose antibiotic ceftriaxone for treatment of all gonorrhea cases. and reinforces the CDC’s recommendation to perform follow-up tests to ensure all patients with gonorrhea are successfully treated,” DPH said.
Gonorrhea is an STD that can cause infection in the genitals, rectum, and throat. According to the CDC, it’s very common, especially among young adults ages 15-24.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause serious and long-term problems, including an increased chance of getting HIV, infection in other parts of your body like your skin or joints, and infertility.
DPH Commissioner Margaret Cook advised minimizing sexual partners and using condoms when having sex.
“The discovery of this strain of gonorrhea is a serious public health concern that DPH, CDC and other health departments are cautious about detecting in the US,” Cook said.
“We urge all sexually active people to be screened regularly for sexually transmitted infections and to consider reducing the number of their sexual partners and increasing the use of condoms when having sex. Physicians are advised to review the clinical alert and assist with our expanded surveillance efforts,” he said.