"This is a both alarming and predictable discovery," Dr. Unemo included in a public statement. Gonorrhea is actually the oldest known human pathogen, and is uniquely evolved for human beings. In fact, late last month researchers discovered the part of the Gonorrhea bacterium's genome includes a fragment of human DNA. The organisms have developed so well to their human hosts that they've actually copied a bit of the human DNA sequence into their own genetic makeup. This explains, at least in part, why the bacterial strains of N. gonorrhoeae have been so adaptable to changing conditions and treatments. Starting in World War II, there was an incredible outbreak of Gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases as soldiers from many parts of the globe were moved en masse, having visited brothels in foreign countries and returned home carrying the bacteria. Soldiers received a standard of sulfonamides for a Gonorrheal infection, but shortly thereafter strains appeared that were resistant to it. Doctors moved on to other antibiotics, including penicillin, tetracycline, and Cipro; all of which no longer work.
As reported in Popular Science, Gonorrhea affects 700,000 individuals in the U.S. each year, all of which are largely treated by one remaining effective antibiotic, cephalosporins. In men, Gonorrhea generally manifests relatively early and includes swelling of the genitals and yellow pussy excretions. Long-term effects can include sterility, penile dysfunction, and the infection can spread to other parts of the body. In women the symptoms are much more subtle, but no less devastating. Women may not even know they carry the disease until he infection spreads, by which time it could have been transmitted to other partners and caused infertility. Transmission of Gonorrhea bacteria carries an increased threat of HIV, as well. Babies born to mothers suffering from Gonorrhea have a heightened risk of infection and blindness upon birth. In about 3 -4% of the cases Gonorrheal infection will spread to the blood, skin, heart and joints of infected adults.
The L.A. Times reports that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported increasing numbers of Gonorrheal infections that require abnormally high doses of cephalosporins to treat. In such a widespread disease, it's a concern of many that these strains may develop independently of one another, simultaneously, and in many areas of the globe, which could result in a global epidemic. The highest growth rates domestically were in Hawaii and California. The CDC is asking physicians to treat new instances of Gonorrhea with a combination of antibiotics until a new type of antibiotic can be made available that will be effective in fighting the new resistant strains.