The World Health Organization's (WHO) warning from June is coming true, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday: Gonorrhea is getting closer to becoming incurable, and is resistant to all but one antibiotic.
The WHO noted two months ago that, unless new treatments for gonorrhea were quickly developed, it would turn into a superbug of sorts and join the ranks of herpes and HIV/AIDS as the "uncurable" sexually-transmitted infections.
According to a new CDC report, that's happening. There is now one lone antibiotic that can fight strains of the disease that are resistant to other drugs, and federal health authorities want to make sure that antibiotic remains useful.
That drug is the injectable Rocephin (ceftriaxone), and the CDC recommends using that to treat gonorrhea, supplemented with one of two oral antibiotics: azithromycin or doxycycline.
Dosages will vary depending on the type of gonorrhea infection a person has.
This is a sort of last stand against gonorrhea, which HealthDay describes as a "crafty" bacteria that eventually became almost entirely drug-resistant. The logic behind combining drugs is that it "confuses" the bacteria somewhat, as Dr. Greg Ward told HealthDay, and so slows "the progression of resistance."
The CDC's recommendations are in line with an action plan the WHO released almost immediately after announcing the disease's impending incurability. The plan has two goals: to rein in gonorrhea's drug resistance and to get the disease under control.
If gonorrhea became incurable it could have big implications for South Los Angeles, which, according to the county's Department of Public Health, has the highest prevalence of gonorrhea in the county. As of 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, the southside accounted for 25 percent of the entire county's cases of the disease.
But the county was ahead of the CDC on the gonorrhea front in at least one way: In a document dated August 2011, Los Angeles' Department of Public Health recommended the ceftriaxone and azithromycin/doxycycline combination as a way to combat drug-resistant strains of the infection.
Photo by Dr. James Volk of the CDC.