UK man contracts drug-resistant super-gonorrhoea
What has been dubbed the world’s “worst-ever” case of super-gonorrhoea has been found in a man who attended an English sexual health clinic early this year, according to a report published by Public Health England.
Health Officials say it is the first time this strain, neisseria gonorrhoeae, cannot be cured with the regular treatment.
The unidentified heterosexual man had one regular female sexual partner in the UK, and reportedly had sexual contact with a woman in south-east Asia one month before his symptoms began.
Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a combination of antibiotics azithromycin and ceftriaxone, but in this case the treatment has not been successful.
Australian GPs on the lookout
Sexual health specialist Nicholas Medland, from the Australian Society of HIV, Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine, said the new “super” strain was concerning.
“Those two antibiotics are also the first line of treatment in Australia for cases of gonorrhoea,” he said.
“Multi-drug resistant infections, and in the past drug-resistant gonorrhoea, have first appeared in Australians returning from Asia.
“In Asia there is much less well-controlled antibiotic use — that is why the resistance develops.”
Dr Medland said while Australia had a good track record of identifying and responding early to drug-resistant gonorrhoea, future defence against such super strains relied on doctors following appropriate testing and treatment guidelines.
“The main risk would be if a person visited a doctor inexperienced in treating sexually transmitted diseases and it could be missed,” he said.
However Dr Medland said that due to a general increase recently in gonorrhoea cases in Australia, state health departments were raising awareness with general practitioners and encouraging appropriate testing and treatment for the disease.
“The key is to identify it early and prevent it from spreading, while the case is appropriately managed,” he said.
“Clearly Australians should also practice safer sex while travelling, and if people see themselves at risk they should get tested as soon as they get back to Australia — and avoid any sex at all until then.
“If people think they might be at risk, people should also be be very upfront about what they did, with whom and where.”
Officials trying different drugs on infected man
Health officials in the UK say they are treating the infected man with different drugs to see whether they are effective in treating this virulent strain of the bug.
They will know whether treatment has been successful in the next month.
Meanwhile, an incident management team has been created to coordinate the investigation and contain the potential spread of the disease.
Tests on the man’s female partner have proved negative. No further cases have yet been identified, but health services are also following up on any other sexual contacts the man may have had.
Gwenda Hughes from Public Health England told the BBC it was an unprecedented case.
“This is the first time a case has displayed such high-level resistance to both of these drugs and to most other commonly used antibiotics,” Dr Hughes said.
Health services in the UK have recommended GPs refer all suspected cases of gonorrhoea to national health services so they can be managed appropriately.
They are recommending that anyone who contracts the disease be carefully monitored to ensure prompt diagnosis, effective treatment, partner notification and a full screen for sexually transmitted diseases.