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Gonorrhea Cases Climb 25 Percent, New Drug-Resistant Strain Threatens UK

Update Date: Feb 27, 2013 01:10 PM EST

According to British Health Officials, there may be a 'superbug' gonorrhea strain spreading across UK, making it harder for medical professionals to treat people with this sexually transmitted infection (STI). Officials noted a dramatic increase in patients with gonorrhea stating that there are about 21,000 new cases in 2011which is a 25 percent increase from the year before. The United Kingdom Health Protection Agency (HPA) stated that a third of these cases occurred in gay men and that more than a third of the total number of cases have already contracted this STI previously.

"We are seriously concerned about continuing high levels of gonorrhea transmission and repeat infection," The head of the HPA's STI surveillance, Gwenda Hughes commented to Reuters.

Gonorrhea is usually treated with one shot of the antibiotics that have a 95 percent effectiveness rate. However, the venereal disease appears to have developed a higher resistance toward some of the more commonly used drug treatments.  Treatments involving antibiotics, such as cephalosporins, are becoming less and less effective for certain strains of the disease. This finding only adds on to the many cases worldwide regarding a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea. In 2011, scientists stated that there was a strain of gonorrhea found in Japan 2008 that was resistant to all of the recommended antibiotic treatments at the time. Just last year, the World Health Organization noted that the drug-resistant strain is apparent throughout the world.

Gonorrhea is one of the most common STIs in the world with the most cases found in south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.  In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that gonorrhea cases totaled 700,000 a year. When left undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, which is pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterus, stillbirths, and infertility.

England has launched a Gonorrhea Resistance Action Plan with the goal of increasing the awareness about the STI. The campaign will continue to monitor the cases from the past 10 years in order to find patterns that may help with prevention. Gonorrhea is the second most common bacterial STI in England.

The bacteria strain appears to have mutated and if the disease continues to grow its resistance toward the available antibiotic treatments against it, the STI can threaten global health.

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