An Englishman who caught the ‘world’s worst’ case of super-gonorrhoea has been cured with a last-ditch antibiotic. In the first recorded case worldwide, the unidentified man caught a version of the STI that was resistant to two crucial drugs.
Health officials revealed he caught it from a one-night stand with a woman during his travels to south east Asia earlier this year – despite having a girlfriend in the UK.
Public Health England issued a warning over the the STI, resistant to ceftriaxone and azithromycin – the two drugs recommended for gonorrhoea.
In a statement today, the Government agency revealed the man – whose location has also been withheld – has been cured with ertapenem, another antibiotic.
In the first recorded case worldwide, the unidentified man caught a version of the STI that was resistant to two crucial drugs
Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STIs at PHE, said: ‘We are pleased to report the case of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea has been successfully treated.
‘Investigations have also revealed there has been no further spread of this infection within the UK.’
Dr Hughes did, however, warn that ‘we expect to see further cases of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea in the future’.
She pointed to two similar cases in Australia that came to light earlier this week, with one patient having also caught the bug from south east Asia.
World Health Organization experts raised fears two years ago the STI, once known as the ‘clap’, could become immune to antibiotics in a ‘matter of years’.
The WHO recommends patients are given ceftriaxone and azithromycin to combat gonorrhoea, the third most common STI in Britain.
But in the case of the Englishman battling super gonorrhoea, revealed last month, PHE admitted he was resistant to both of the drugs.
Officials said at the time: ‘This is the first global report of high-level azithromycin resistant N. gonorrhoeae which is also resistant to ceftriaxone.’
WHAT IS SUPER GONORRHOEA?
When gonorrhoea is resistant to one of two antibiotics recommended to treat it, it is known as super gonorrhoea.
But this is the first recorded case where the bug has fought off both treatments – a pill called azithromycin and an infection called ceftriaxone.
All types of gonorrhoea – historically called ‘the clap’ – are caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
It is quick to develop and strains mutate every few years to become resistant to drugs.
Doctors have frequently changed their recommended treatments to keep up with the changing nature of the bug. It stopped responding to penicillin in the 1980s.
Symptoms of gonorrhoea include discharge, bleeding or pain when urinating.
But around one in two women and one in 10 men will not experience any signs, which is why the infection is so easily spread.
Women who do not get treatment can develop pelvic inflammatory disease – an infection of the womb and ovaries which can cause infertility.
In pregnancy, it can cause miscarriage, premature birth or lead to babies developing problems with their vision.
Patients with super gonorrhoea can be given some other treatments which might work but can have unpleasant side effects.
Health experts warn it is only a matter of time before the bug mutates to resist these remaining antibiotics too. They recommend using condoms and regular testing to prevent spread of the disease.
The patient attended sexual health services earlier this year after becoming concerned about symptoms and was diagnosed with gonorrhoea.
They began a month after having sex with the woman in south east Asia on his travels. He told officials he was having regular sex with a female in the UK.
The document did not state whether the Asian woman already had the multi-drug resistant strain of gonorrhoea, or if it mutated.
He was started on a course of ceftriaxone and spectinomycin – but tests showed the STI remained in his throat, suggesting one failed to work.
Laboratory tests revealed a high resistance to azithromycin and ceftriaxone. It also showed the bug was only susceptible to spectinomycin.
The patient was then given daily infusions of ertapenem, another antibiotic usually given to treat more serious infections, such as pneumonia.
More than 35,000 people a year are infected with gonorrhoea in England, including record numbers of baby boomers.
Only chlamydia and genital warts are more prevalent. Figures show 78 million people worldwide contract gonorrhoea each year.
A ‘super’ version of the STI, caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium, swept across Britain two years ago, striking London, the South East and the Midlands.
It was resistant to the common antibiotic ciprofloxacin and extended-spectrum cephalosporins, which are another branch of last-resort drugs.
Analysis of STI data around the world previously revealed 97 per cent of countries have reported strains of gonorrhoea that are resistant to ciprofloxacin.
And more than 50 countries warned strains were showing some form of resistance to ceftraixone – another last-resort treatment.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies has previously written to GPs warning that gonorrhoea could become an ‘untreatable disease’.
Super gonorrhoea is one of many antibiotic-resistant infections which together kill an estimated 700,000 people worldwide each year.
Deemed to be one of the biggest threats to humanity, the issue has previously been cited as severe as terrorism and global warming.
Antibiotics have been so overused by GPs and hospital staff for decades that the bacteria have evolved to become resistant.
Doctors claim medicines including penicillin no longer work on sore throats, skin infections and, more seriously, pneumonia.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GONORRHOEA?
More than 35,000 people a year are infected with gonorrhoea in England, including record numbers of baby boomers. Only chlamydia and genital warts are more prevalent.
Figures show 78 million people worldwide contract gonorrhoea, which can often go symptomless for weeks, each year.
Symptoms usually strike within two weeks of infection – but can stay hidden for many months.
In women, symptoms of gonorrhoea can include:
- an unusual vaginal discharge, which may be thin or watery and green or yellow in colour
- pain or a burning sensation when passing urine
- pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area (this is less common)
- bleeding between periods, heavier periods and bleeding after sex (this is less common)
In men, symptoms of gonorrhoea can include:
- an unusual discharge from the tip of the penis, which may be white, yellow or green
- pain or a burning sensation when urinating
- inflammation (swelling) of the foreskin
- pain or tenderness in the testicles (this is rare)