- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday that the bacterium that causes gonorrhea could become resistant to the only two antibiotics still effective against the sexually transmitted disease.
- According to national surveillance data, the number of cases of Neisseria genorrhoeae resistant to azithromycin grew fourfold in 2014.
- Three other antibiotics also showed declining effectiveness against gonorrhea, which is the second most commonly-reported notifiable disease in the U.S.
Of the 5,093 N. gonorrhea samples collected in 2014, 25.3% were resistant to tetracycline, 19.2% to ciprofloxacin, 16.2% to penicillin and 2.5% to azithromycin. The increase was across the U.S. and in all types of sexual relationships.
The findings, culled from the Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project, were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The jump in resistance to azithromycin — from 0.6% in 2013 — is particularly worrisome as it is currently the only recommended treatment for gonorrhea, in combination with ceftriaxone. Susceptibility of ceftriaxone, a cephalosporin, increased from 0.4% in 2013 to 0.8% the following year.
“It is unclear whether these increases mark the beginning of trends, but emergence of cephalosporin and azithromycin resistance would complicate gonorrhea treatment substantially," the CDC says. The agency says state and local health departments can use the data to inform STD prevention and control strategies.
Concerns about antibiotic-resistant superbugs have been growing worldwide, spurring initiatives in antibiotic stewardship aimed at conserving the drugs’ use.
The CDC report follows news of a superbug gene in a second person in the U.S. According to The Washington Post, the patient was infected with a strain of E. coli bacteria that is resistant to colistin, the antibiotic of last resort, following surgery at a New York hospital. Researchers reported in May that a Pennsylvania woman had been infected with the same organism.
According to the CDC, at least 2 million people annually in the U.S. are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and as many as 23,000 die from those infections.