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Warning over gonorrhoea super bug

New Zealand sexual health clinics are in a high state of alert following the recent detection of a new multi-drug resistant strain of gonorrhoea (gonococcal A8806) in a patient in Australia.

Laboratory testing of this patient revealed the highest level of resistance ever reported in Australia to the currently recommended antibiotic treatment.

Internationally there is increasing concern regarding the emergence of an untreatable gonorrhoea super-bug, with reports that the susceptibility of gonorrhoea isolates to the recommended antibiotic treatment is decreasing globally.

The capacity of the gonorrhoea bacterium to develop antibiotic resistance is well known and many of the antibiotics used in the past 70 years no longer provide effective treatment. There are no new treatment options on the horizon.

“Gonorrhoea infection can result in severe complications,” says Dr Edward Coughlan the president of the NZ Sexual Health Society, “This is a major public health concern.”

He says fortunately, there is still one effective treatment in New Zealand, an injectable antibiotic known as ceftriaxone, but it is essential to monitor its effectiveness closely.

Currently, antibiotic resistance testing for confirmed cases of gonorrhoea is done by culturing the bacteria in a laboratory. However, culture has been largely superseded by newer, more sensitive DNA based methods when diagnosing this infection.

Sexual health clinics in New Zealand play a vital role in monitoring the antibiotic resistance of gonorrhoea strains by performing additional testing of patients with a confirmed or suspected infection.

The New Zealand Sexual Health Society recommends:

  • urgently improving epidemiological surveillance of gonorrhoea infection in New Zealand.
  • increasing public awareness about this issue, particularly for those at greatest risk of gonorrhea infections, i.e. sexually active men and women aged less than 25 years and sexually active gay and bisexual men. Using condoms to avoid infections will reduce the amount of antibiotics that are needed, thus reducing the likelihood that resistance will develop.

Importantly gonorrhoea infection does not always cause symptoms. If anyone is concerned that they may be at risk of infection, they should contact their GP, sexual health clinic or family planning clinic for a routine sexual health check.

ENDS

For further information:
Dr Jane Morgan
Consultant Sexual Health Physician at Waikato DHB
Waikato DHB communications 021 705213

Dr Edward Coughlan
Consultant Sexual Health Physician at Canterbury DHB
Canterbury DHB communications 027 502 7523

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