The search for a new, more effective treatment for the STD gonorrhea is underway. Health officials say the disease has become resistant to current medications.
"We are changing our treatment guidelines and sounding the alarm that we are down to the last, most effective drug," said Gail Bolan, M.D., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quoted by WDAM News.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Public Health Ontario found about one in 15 cases to be resistant to the oral antibiotic cefixime, which had been the best treatment option up until recently. The biggest problem is that there aren't any other medications that have been proven to cure the infection.
"We are now at the end of the pipeline and have no drugs to turn to if it becomes resistant to current antibiotics," said Bolan.
The current treatment consists of an antibiotic injection as well as an oral antibiotic to be taken for a week after. Then, those infected should be retested to ensure they're cured.
According to the CDC, gonorrhea is a common STD, affecting as many as 700,000 people in the U.S. each year. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting the disease. However, teens, young adults and African Americans currently have higher infection rates than any other groups.
Besides the fact that it is becoming harder to treat, officials say individuals with gonorrhea often have no symptoms. Men who are infected may have a burning sensation when urinating as well as a discharge from the penis. Women may have pain when urinating, vaginal discharge and bleeding between periods. The fact that the symptoms can be missed makes it important for individuals who think they may have been exposed to it to be tested.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can result in permanent health problems including infertility and an infection of the blood or joints that can be deadly.