The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday that the world is running out of ways to treat a once easily curable sexually transmitted infection, gonorrhea. The infection is reportedly becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics due to "misuse and overuse" of antibiotics, according to WHO. The organization also released new guidelines for treatment of gonorrhea as well as chlamydia and syphilis, which are also becoming resistant to the drugs typically used to treat them.
In light of the drug resistance to gonorrhea, the new guidelines from the WHO advises that doctors treating gonorrhea patients cease to prescribe quinolones, a class of antibiotics previously effective in the treatment of gonorrhea. Now, doctors are advised to use cephalosporins, a different class of antibiotics.
Ian Askew, WHO's director of Reproductive Health and Research, said in the news release,
Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are major public health problems worldwide, affecting millions of peoples' quality of life, causing serious illness and sometimes death. The new WHO guidelines reinforce the need to treat these STIs with the right antibiotic, at the right dose, and the right time to reduce their spread and improve sexual and reproductive health.
Askew added that health agencies worldwide need to monitor the resistance of these infections to antibiotics.
But gonorrhea is already showing resistance to cephalosporins in some countries, according to the journal Science. In some cases, doctors are using combinations of antibiotics to cure gonorrhea, but Toedora Wi, also with WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, tells Science that in order to adequately treat gonorrhea, "We will have to have new drugs in 5 years, I think."
In its news release regarding the updates to the best treatment plans, WHO noted that gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are especially dangerous when untreated in women. Any of these STIs can cause long-term reproductive health problems for women, including pelvic inflammatory disease and miscarriage. In both men and women, untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause infertility, and seriously increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV.