A CNBC article published in early May reported that a new antibiotic-resistant form of gonorrhea may be comparable to AIDS. Experts are now trying to assure the general public that this proclamation is false.
"Worse than AIDS"
Alan Christianson, N.D., a naturopathic medicine expert, spoke to CNBC about the outbreak of the new antibiotic-resistant form of gonorrhea.
"This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people more quickly," said Christianson.
While they acknowledged the death toll of AIDS - nearly 30 million people - Christianson noted that the effect of the gonorrhea is more direct, and with no treatment available, it is just as dangerous.
The source claimed that the strain of gonorrhea, known as HO41, which was first discovered in Japan in 2009, had since spread to Hawaii, California and Norway. CNBC retracted that statement when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that there had been no reported gonorrhea treatment failures in the U.S.
Superbug status was granted to gonorrhea because of its resistance to current antibiotic treatments in other parts of the world, however, there have been no reported mortalities as a result of the infection.
Bruce Hirsch, M.D., attending physician in the department of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital, told Live Science that he believes Christianson overstated the danger, citing significantly lower rates of complications in gonorrhea patients than in those with AIDS.
Carlos del Rio, M.D., chair of the Global Health Department at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, noted that AIDS is a fatal infection, whereas no one has died yet from this gonorrhea strain, and comparing the two was inappropriate.
Current gonorrhea treatments
According to the CDC, the only first-line drug that gonorrhea isn't resistant to is the injection treatment ceftriaxone. Physicians recommend using the injection treatment alongside other antibiotics for a full week. The source notes that the emergence of a strain of gonorrhea resistant to ceftriaxone has the potential to drastically complicate the treatability of the infection.
Annually, 820,000 people become infected with gonorrhea in the U.S., according to the CDC, and less than 50 percent of those individuals are detected or treated. Left untreated, gonorrhea can cause serious long-term health problems