Public Health officials were quick to squash growing rumors over a new strain of gonorrhea which is resistant to ceftriaxone, the drug of last-resort to eradicate the sexually transmitted bacteria.
The rumors started after media outlets such as the Associated Press incorrectly reported that a case of the strain HO41 was contracted in Hawaii.
A recent CNBC article with the headline “Sex Superbug Could Be ‘Worse Than AIDS'” quoted Alan Christianson, a naturopathic doctor, as saying that an antibiotic-resistant strain of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea “might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly.”
That form of gonorrhea has no treatment, but officials now disclose that the strain contracted was H11S8 which is resistant to azithromycin. As for the dreaded HO41 strain, it hasn’t been detected anywhere in the world since a Japanese prostitute contracted it in 2009.
There are some isolated cases of other infections resistant to ceftriaxone that have been reported since that time. Now, public health experts do not want people to think that the threat of a strain of drug-resistant gonorrhea is low. In fact, they stress that the threat is real.
They said that it may only be a year or two before such a drug-resistant strain appears in the United States. There are well-over 300,000 cases of gonorrhea that get reported annually in the US. However, given that the STD only manifests itself after infecting a person over an extended period of time, public health officials estimate the total number of infected people at 700,000 annually.
Some experts called the comparison hyperbolic.
“I disagree with the general comparison,” said Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an attending physician in infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
“The rate of complications from gonorrhea in terms of systemic problems is so much lower than the rate of complications from untreated AIDS infection,” Hirsch said.
Settle down: no ‘sex superbug’ in the US, despite reports