London: For the first time, scientists have found a "superbug" strain of gonorrhoea, resistant to all recommended antibiotics, which they fear could turn a once easily treatable sexually-transmitted disease into a global public health threat.
The new strain of the disease, called H041, was found in Japan and leaves doctors with no other option than to try untested medicines to combat it.
The analysis of the strain showed that it was highly resistant to all cephalosporin-class antibiotics -- the last remaining drugs still effective in treating gonorrhoea, the Daily Mail reported.
Magnus Unemo of the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria, who discovered the strain with colleagues in samples from Kyoto, described it as "alarming".
"Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for gonorrhoea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs introduced to control it," he said.
The researchers resented their finding at a conference of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research in Quebec.
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually-transmitted infection and if untreated can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.
It can also cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the ducts attached to the testicles that may lead to infertility. And if it spreads to the blood or joints the condition can be life threatening.
The infection, which used to be known as "the clap", is particularly prevalent among young people aged 16-24 years who accounted for nearly half of the 16,500 new cases of
gonorrhoea reported in 2008.
Experts say the best way to reduce the risk of even greater resistance developing is to treat gonorrhoea with combinations of two or more types of antibiotic at the same time.
However, Unemo said that experience from previous degrees of resistance acquired by gonorrhoea suggested this new multi-drug resistant strain could spread around the world
Within 10 years.
He added that there would need to be trials to assess whether carbapenems - known as the most powerful antibiotics yet devised - might be a last ditch option for treating this new gonorrhoea strain.