ATLANTA, GA, September 18, 2013 ( – A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that not only are new gonorrhea infections at epidemic levels in the US, but the sexually transmitted disease is becoming untreatable because “Neisseria gonorrhoeae,” the bacteria that causes the disease, has become resistant to the antibiotics used for treatment.

In their report the CDC has, for the first time, prioritized bacteria in their report into one of three categories: urgent, serious, and concerning. Along with gonorrhea, two other antibiotic resistant bacteria, Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which includes E.coli, are listed as “Urgent Threats.”  The categorization means that medical science has just about run out of ways to treat infections caused by those bacteria. 

“Antibiotic resistance is a quickly growing, extremely dangerous problem. World health leaders have described antibiotic-resistant bacteria as ‘nightmare bacteria’ that ‘pose a catastrophic threat’ to people in every country in the world,” the CDC report states.

In its fact sheet on gonorrhea, the CDC estimates that every year 820,000 people in the United States get new gonorrhea infections, and that 570,000 of these infections are among young people 15-24 years of age. 


Complications of gonorrhea infection can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men and can be life-threatening. 

In women, gonorrhea can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID symptoms may be mild to very severe and can include abdominal pain, fever, internal abscesses (pus-filled pockets) and chronic pelvic pain. It also can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. 

In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful inflammation of the coiled tube (epididymis) at the back of the testicle that stores and carries sperm. 

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Gonorrhea can cause sterility in both men and women, and can also spread to the blood or joints causing further complications.

The CDC advises that “the most certain way to avoid gonorrhea is to not have sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.” 

“Gonorrhea has progressively developed resistance to the antibiotic drugs prescribed to treat it,” reads the CDC's official statement on the crisis of gonorrhea treatment options. “The emergence of cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea would significantly complicate our ability to treat gonorrhea successfully, since we have few antibiotic options left that are simple, well-studied, and highly effective. It is critical to continuously monitor antibiotic resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae and encourage research and development of new treatment regimens.”

Steve Solomon, one of the authors of the CDC report, was more grim in his assessment of the threat of sexually transmitted and other diseases becoming antibiotic resistant. 

Solomon said that while previously “there was a sense that resistance wasn’t a huge problem because there would always be another antibiotic coming down the pipe, and for 50 to 60 years, that was kind of true,” he pointed out that this was no longer the case.

“The cushion of new antibiotics is gone,” Solomon told “We’re right at the edge of this cliff where we’re approaching the post-antibiotic era.” 

The CDC report explained that as antibiotic resistance grows, the antibiotics used to treat infections do not work as well, or at all.

“The loss of effective antibiotic treatments will not only cripple the ability to fight routine infectious diseases but will also undermine treatment of infectious complications in patients with other diseases,” the report said.

“Many of the advances in medical treatment—joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis—are dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics. If that ability is lost, the ability to safely offer people many life-saving and life- improving modern medical advantages will be lost with it.”

“Antibiotic resistance is rising for many different pathogens that are threats to health,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “If we don’t act now, our medicine cabinet will be empty and we won’t have the antibiotics we need to save lives.” 

The full text of the CDC report titled “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013” is available here

More information about drug resistance and the serious impacts it has on human health is available from the CDC here.



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