New Delhi: The World Health Organization has said that Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease that infects millions of people each year, is growing resistant to drugs and could soon become untreatable.
"This organism has basically been developing resistance against every medication we`ve thrown at it," said Dr. Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, a scientist in U.N. health agency’s department of sexually transmitted diseases.
"In a couple of years it will have become resistant to every treatment option we have available now," she said in an interview to a press agency.
Lusti-Narasimhan said the new guidance is aimed at ending complacency about gonorrhea and encouraging researchers to speed up their hunt for a new cure.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can cause inflammation, infertility, pregnancy complications and, in extreme cases, lead to maternal death. Babies born to mothers with gonorrhea have a 50 per cent chance of developing eye infections that can result in blindness.
Once considered a scourge of sailors and soldiers, the disease became easily treatable with the discovery of penicillin. WHO estimates that of the 498 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections worldwide, gonorrhea is responsible for some 106 million infections annually. It also increases the chances of infection with other diseases, such as HIV.
"It`s not a European problem or an African problem, it`s really a worldwide problem," said Lusti-Narasimhan.
Scientists believe overuse of antibiotics, coupled with the gonorrhea bacteria`s astonishing ability to adapt, means the disease is now close to becoming a super bug.
Resistance to cephalosporins was first reported in Japan, but more recently has also been detected in Britain, Hong Kong and Norway. As these are all countries with well-developed health systems, it is likely that cephalosporin-resistant strains are also circulating undetected elsewhere.
Therefore the health agency wants countries not just to tighten their rules for antibiotic use, but also to improve their surveillance systems so that the full extent of the problem can be determined.
Better sex education is also needed, as proper condom use is an effective means of stopping transmission, said Lusti-Narasimhan.
"We`re not going to be able to get rid of it completely," she said. "But we can limit the spread."
(With Agency inputs)