Treatment-resistant gonorrhea threat rises in North America

Tue Jan 8, 2013 5:25pm EST
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* Canadian scientists document several cases of treatment failure

* CDC official says "it's only a matter of time" to reach U.S.

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The only remaining oral antibiotic used for gonorrhea failed to cure the infection in nearly 7 percent of patients treated at a clinic in Toronto, Canadian researchers said on Monday in the first published study of treatment-resistant gonorrhea in North America.

The study raised alarm among U.S. health officials, who have ordered doctors to stop prescribing the antibiotic known as cefixime because lab cultures showed gonorrhea was starting to develop resistance to the drug.

That left U.S. doctors with only one effective treatment for most cases of gonorrhea, an injectible antibiotic known as ceftriaxone.

"We've been very concerned about the threat of potentially untreatable gonorrhea in the United States," Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's division for sexually transmitted diseases, said in a telephone interview

There have been a number of cases in Europe, but "this is the first time we've had such a report in the actual North American continent," she said. "We feel it's only a matter of time until resistance will occur in the United States."

Until now, signs of antibiotic resistance in North America have been detected mostly through lab tests, which have shown a steady increase in the amount of antibiotic cefixime - marketed by Lupin Ltd as Suprax - that was needed to kill gonorrhea.   Continued...