Untreatable 'super gonorrhea' case could be 'tip of the iceberg'

(FOX NEWS) - The medical community is sounding the alarm after a man in the U.K. has become the first patient with a type of gonorrhea infection that is not responding to the antibiotics commonly used to cure it.

Doctors are calling it the “worst-ever” case of the sexually transmitted disease, which hits approximately 78 million men and women every year.

According to the BBC, the unidentified man had a regular partner but picked up the disease earlier this year after a sexual encounter with a woman in South East Asia.

"This is the first time a case has displayed such high-level resistance to both of these drugs and to most other commonly used antibiotics," said Dr. Gwenda Hughes, from Public Health England, to the BBC.

The medical community has long warned that the bacteria that cause gonorrhea are growing more resistant to antibiotics.

"The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them," said Dr. Teodora Wi, Medical Officer, Human Reproduction, at World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO has found broad resistance to older and cheaper antibiotics based on data pulled from 77 countries. In some cases, countries are finding instances of the infection that are completely untreatable.

"These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries, where gonorrhea is actually more common," Dr. Wi said in a report last year.

The WHO cites decreasing condom use, increased urbanization and travel, poor infection detection rates and inadequate or failed treatment as reasons for the increase.

If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirths, severe eye infections in babies and infertility across genders.

Approximately 300,000 cases of gonorrhea are reported in the United States annually. Experts, however, predict the actual number of cases may be double than what is reported due to the common lack of symptoms associated with the infection.

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