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Expert: “Super Gonorrhea” Is Invulnerable to Standard Treatments

Problem can be particularly dangerous for women

Physicians may be called upon to be extra creative in dealing with a new strain of gonorrhea that’s not only difficult to treat, but also hard to find. Among the problems is the fact that the disease in this case manifests itself in the throat, a good place for harmful bacteria to hide, reports The New York Times.

Emilie Alirol, PhD, leads the sexually transmitted infections program at the Global Antibiotics Research and Development Partnership. She tells the Times that “throat infections act as a silent reservoir. Transmission is very efficient from someone who has gonorrhea in their throat to their partner via oral sex.”

Throat bacteria are exposed to any infection in the body and can therefore build up resistance to antibiotics. “That’s generally not a concern until harmful bacteria are introduced,” the Times reports. “Sharing close quarters with the natural occupants of the throat, the invaders exchange DNA in a process called horizontal gene transfer.”

This doesn’t mean that the super gonorrhea is not curable, but doctors may have to resort to off-label ways to combat it: much stronger doses than are recommended or trying older medications.

Alirol tells the Times that, “The problem of using off-label tools is that you don’t know which dose to give, or if it’s going to work. You want to keep these as last-resort tools. If you start giving them away, you will develop resistance to them, too.”

Meanwhile, don’t wait for the cavalry. Pharmaceutical companies don’t have an incentive to develop treatment to meet the challenge, because the drugs used to fight gonorrhea are taken for a short time and often, as Alirol mentions, they only work until the bacteria develop resistance to them as well.

Source: The New York Times; July 31, 2017.

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