QUEBEC CITY, Quebec, July 11, 2011 ( – A new strain of one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases has scientists warning that the “superbug” could cause a “future era of untreatable gonorrhea.”

Gonorrhea is a common bacterial sexually transmitted disease that can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility in both men and women.  Often caused by promiscuous sexual activity, the infection usually goes undetected in women who can pass it on to their unborn child during childbirth; in men, the disease is also often undiagnosed or undetected.  Left without treatment, Gonorrhea can become life threatening. 

Yet, experts say they may not be able to cure the sexually transmitted infection in the future.  The most recent strain, dubbed “H041,” was discovered recently in Japan and has resisted typical antibiotics used to combat gonorrhea.

H041’s antibiotic resistance was discovered by Magnus Unemo of the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria at Orebro University Hospital, who warned the strain may cause a “future era of untreatable gonorrhea.”

“If it spreads now, we don’t know what should be the recommended treatment,” Unemo said.

Although gonorrhea has been known to develop resistance to drugs and adapt to new ones after ten to fifteen years, scientists could previously treated infections successfully with a drug called cephalosporins.  However, the new strain does not react to the drug, said the Swedish researcher, who will now attempt to treat it using carbapenems, the most powerful antibiotic yet devised, to combat the new strain.

“Due to this situation, the World Health Organization has assured us that it will work on the issue of coming up with a global response plan — a huge challenge for the future,” Unemo said.

Experts will examine the new disease and seek to develop a treatment that could involve combining antibiotics.

“It’s really worrying from a public health perspective,” Unemo said. “It’s shown its capacity to act as a superbug. We need to focus on finding new strategies for treatment.”

Unemo is scheduled to present details of the finding at a conference of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research in Quebec City on July 11, where an entire symposium will be dedicated to the subject.