Two cases of a novel strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to a wide variety of antibiotics were reported by Massachusetts health officials on Thursday. These are the first cases of “concerning gonorrhea strain” reported in the US.
“The Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced it has detected a novel strain of gonorrhea in a Massachusetts resident that showed reduced response to multiple antibiotics and another case with genetic markers that indicate a similar drug response,” DPH said in a statement.
Patients were successfully cured after receiving ceftriaxone treatment, the currently recommended antibiotic. However, the new strain of gonorrhea was resistant to a variety of antibiotics.
“This is the first time that resistance or reduced response to five classes of antibiotics has been identified in gonorrhea in the United States,” DPH said.
“Both cases in Massachusetts were successfully cured with ceftriaxone, the antibiotic currently recommended to treat gonorrhea. To date, no direct connection between the two individuals has been identified,” DPH continued.
The DPH claimed that while the novel strain is new to the United States, it has been found in the Asia-Pacific region and the United Kingdom.
“This strain of gonorrhea has been previously seen in Asia-Pacific countries and in the United Kingdom, but not in the US. A genetic marker common to these two Massachusetts residents was also previously seen in a case in Nevada, though that strain retained sensitivity to at least one class of antibiotics. Overall, these cases are an important reminder that strains of gonorrhea in the US are becoming less responsive to a limited arsenal of antibiotics.”
The Department of Public Health has issued a warning to medical professionals and laboratories about this novel strain of gonorrhea.
“The alert recommends increased use of laboratory culture testing for individuals with symptoms of gonorrhea to detect antibiotic resistance and reminds providers of the process for submission of gonorrhea specimens to the State Public Health Laboratory to support DPH’s and CDC’s surveillance of further resistance in this organism. This alert also reinforces the CDC’s recommendation to use high doses of the antibiotic ceftriaxone for the treatment of all gonorrhea cases and to perform follow-up tests to ensure all patients with gonorrhea are successfully treated,” DPH said.
Gonorrhea is an STD that can cause infection in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is very common, especially among young people ages 15-24 years, according to CDC.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause serious and long-lasting problems, including an increased chance of getting HIV, infection in other parts of your body like your skin or joints, and infertility.
DPH Commissioner Margret Cooke advised reducing sexual partners and using condoms when having sex.
“The discovery of this strain of gonorrhea is a serious public health concern which DPH, the CDC, and other health departments have been vigilant about detecting in the US,” said Cooke.
“We urge all sexually active people to be regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections and to consider reducing the number of their sexual partners and increasing their use of condoms when having sex. Clinicians are advised to review the clinical alert and assist with our expanded surveillance efforts,” she added.