The United Nation’s health agency believes that new drugs should be developed to treat Gonorrhea as doctors are finding more cases to be untreatable by existing antibiotics. According to the data presented by the World Health Organization (WHO), there are almost 80 million people who are infected with the Sexually Transmitted Disease every year.

Marc Sprenger, director of WHO antimicrobial Resistance, points out the need for new tools and systems for better prevention, treatment and earlier diagnosis of gonorrhea. In 1970, the disease first had shown its resistance to penicillin and tetracycline, both a broad-spectrum kind of antibiotic, in Asia.

It then spread to the rest of the world in 1980. By mid-2000s, it developed resistance to ciprofloxacin which led to the usage of the third generation of antibiotics called cephalosporins. Doctors began administering oral cefixime and injectable ceftriaxone.

The disease known as “the clap”

Gonorrhea, known in the streets as “the clap,” is spread through anal, oral and vaginal sex. If treatment is not successful, it can cause infertility to both men and women. Aside from a painful pelvic inflammation in women, the bacteria could spread in the blood and can potentially cause life-threatening infections. Pregnant mothers who are infected with gonorrhea could pass the disease to the unborn child and may even cause congenital blindness.

WHO is worried as reports in more than 50 countries showed resistance to cefixime. In rare cases, the disease also proves stronger than ceftriaxone. This is due to the mutation of a so-called multi-drug strains (MDR). Teodora Wi, a WHO official, called the bacteria that causes gonorrhea to be smart. Whenever health scientists develop a new class of antibiotic, the bacteria evolve.

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MDR gonorrhea on the rise in developed countries

Surveillance of the disease is at its best in these parts of the world; hence, a higher incidence is being put into records. Data coming from lower income countries are not readily available, but gonorrhea is believed to be common in those regions.

Last year, WHO updated its treatment guidelines for the sexually-transmitted disease.

Doctors are now urged to use a combination of ceftriaxone and azithromycin. Resistance happens when people do not follow the correct doses of antibiotics. However, strains can also be spread from air, animals, and water.