Scientists are warning of a new, untreatable strain of gonorrhea, discovered in a sex trade worker in Japan.
The mutant strain of gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease also known as “the clap,” is resistant to penicillin and other antibiotics, according to research presented at a conference on STDs held in Quebec City, reports Canada’s National Post.
“If it spreads now, we don’t know what should be the recommended treatment,” Swedish researcher Magnus Unemo told the newspaper.
Scientists from the Swedish Reference Laboratory have warned that the new “super” strain of the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhea, dubbed H041, is resistant to cephalosporins, a fourth-generation class of antibiotics. Unemo warned of a “future era of untreatable gonorrhea,” with the STD posing a major threat to public health.
New strains of gonorrhea generally emerge in Japan or South Korea before spreading globally, the National Post said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, there are an estimated 700,000 new cases of gonorrhea in the United States each year.
A July 8, 2011, notice from the CDC asked doctors to be on the lookout for gonorrhea infections that are resistant to cephalosporins, ABC News reports.
Gonorrhea is one of the world’s most common STDs, but if left untreated it can cause serious, life-threatening health complications in both women and men.
Symptoms of gonorrhea include a burning sensation when urinating, and the STD can cause discharge from the genitals, the BBC says. But some 50 percent of women infected with gonorrhea, and 2 to 5 percent of men, have no symptoms.
If untreated, the gonorrhea infection can spread to the skin, blood and other organs, causing pain, infertility and even death.