There is actually an untreatable kind of gonorrhoea out there that is drug resistant.
According to WHO (the disease is tranmitted through sex) 78 million people a year get gonorrhoea, an STD that can infect the genitals, rectum and throat.
“Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug,” said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based U.N. health agency.
“Every time you introduce a new type of antibiotic to treat it, this bug develops resistance to it.”
It is estumated that at least three people worldwide are infected with totally untreatable “superbug” strains of gonorrhoea.
Wi, who gave details in a telephone briefing of two studies on gonorrhoea published in the journal PLOS Medicine, said one had documented three specific cases – one each in Japan, France and Spain – of patients with strains of gonorrhoea against which no known antibiotic is effective.
“These are cases that can infect others. It can be transmitted,” she told reporters. “And these cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhoea is actually more common.”
According to a study, from 2009 to 2014 there was widespread resistance to the first-line medicine ciprofloxacin, increasing resistance to another antibiotic drugs called azithromycin, and the emergence of resistance to last-resort treatments known as extended-spectrum cephalosporins (ESCs).
Manica Balasegaram, director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, said the situation was “grim” and there was a “pressing need” for new medicines.
“We urgently need to seize the opportunities we have with existing drugs and candidates in the pipeline,” he told reporters. “Any new treatment developed should be accessible to everyone who needs it, while ensuring it is used appropriately, so that drug resistance is slowed as much as possible.”