By Elizabeth Narins, Women’s Health
ALERT: Gonorrhea May Soon Be Untreatable
Scrunch your nose, curl your toes, and cross your legs–experts say that gonorrhea may soon be resistant to its only known treatment. Not good, considering the bacterial infection–which can be transmitted unknowingly through vaginal, oral, or anal sex–is estimated to infect more than 700,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We could be facing the real possibility of untreatable gonorrhea [in the U.S.],” says Robert Kirkcaldy, M.D., M.P.H., medical epidemiologist and antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea expert at the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “It’s scary to think about.”
In recent years, effective treatment options for the newest strain of drug-resistant gonorrhea have dwindled down to one: the injectable antibiotic cefriazoxone, recommended in conjunction with an oral antibiotic. That’s because the bacteria that cause gonorrhea mutate quickly and develop resistance to antibiotics quite rapidly. “Antibiotic resistance is a very serious public health and medical problem that we are facing, and the bacteria that cause gonorrhea are among infections we’re very worried about,” says Kirkcaldy. (It’s true, antiobiotic resistance is on the rise. Learn Why Antibiotics Won’t Cure This Common Condition.)
It gets worse: the very real threat of a national health epidemic comes at a time when few new antibiotics are being developed.
So what now? According to Kirkcaldy, the CDC is urging drug companies to research new drugs, and new combinations of existing drugs to buy time, while an ongoing clinical trial is expected to provide some additional options, as well. In the meantime, your best line of defense: don’t get gonorrhea.
Know Your Risk
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, women have a 60-80% risk of contracting the clap after just one one-night stand with a man who has it. While symptoms depend on which part of your body is infected–such as your lady parts, anus, eyes, mouth, or throat–pain when you pee or vaginal discharge are fairly common. That said, the infection is asymptomatic in 50% of female carriers, so it can easily be passed along unknowingly. Left untreated, the STI can trigger chronic pelvic pain, pregnancy complications, and even infertility in women–not to mention an increased risk of contracting HIV. Men are equally unlucky: common symptoms include uncomfortable urination and discharge from the penis–symptoms you won’t necessarily know when you see. (Could you spot an STD? Learn The Symptoms of 5 Common STDs.)
The CDC says the best way to prevent the sexually transmitted infection is by–duh–not having sex. If that’s not an option, using condoms correctly and consistently with a mutually monogamous, uninfected partner is a surefire way to stay gonorrhea-free. Additionally, the CDC recommends that at-risk, sexually active women (e.g., those with new or multiple sex partners) undergo annual screenings to detect (and prevent passing along) asymptomatic infections. (Preventative screenings aren’t just for your sexual health: learn to spot early warning signs of serious conditions with The 10 Self-Checks Every Woman Should Do.)
New International Version (NIV
21 The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22 The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. 24 The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.
25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. 26 Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 27 The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. 28 The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. 29 At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.
22. For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. 23. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. 24. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. 25. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.