An antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacteria that causes gonorrhea, the sexually transmitted disease that can wreak havoc on one’s reproductive system and beyond if left untreated, has been detected in the United Kingdom, sparking fears of a worldwide spread.
Two women caught the disease within England itself, health authorities there told BBC News. Previous cases had been contracted outside the UK.
“It really brings home the message that these organisms will spread globally and you can get them in the UK,” Public Health England spokesman Dr. Nick Phin told BBC News.
While both women were ultimately cured, the first line of defense – ceftriaxone and azithromycin – did not work, the BBC said. The strain, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is, like other forms, spread by unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex. Left untreated, it can ultimately cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease, the BBC said. It can also be passed on to a baby during pregnancy.
What concerns health officials is that these cases were clearly contracted on UK soil, rather than during travel outside the country, health authorities told the BBC.
The resistant strain of gonorrhea has been detected in various parts of the U.S. since the late 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is one of several emerging STDs that are concerning health officials in general. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, cipro resistance had been detected in Hawaii and on the U.S.West Coast, the CDC said.
Syphilis and chlamydia are also developing antibiotic-resistant strains, NBC News reported. So far, the resistant gonorrhea strain is not widespread. But these latest infections indicate that that could be changing, health authorities fear.
“We are deeply concerned by these new developments,” said Dr. Olwen Williams, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, to BBC News.