Dang. While we were all busy worrying about the Singularity,* super sexually transmitted diseases have been quietly plotting to beat computers and robots to rising up against humankind. And I, for one, do not welcome our gonorrhea overlords.
What the heck am I talking about? I’m talking about a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) yesterday announcing the arrival of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. Doctors have been warning about this Super Gonorrhea for a while now, but it’s become official: The last oral antibiotics effective at fighting the STD have stopped working. As Ian Chant at Geekosystem so terriflying puts it:
For those of you who have been playing along at home, watching gonorrhea get scarier and scarier, you can move your “STD Doomsday Clock” one minute closer to midnight, as pretty soon, the only viable medical treatment for gonorrhea will be “getting set on fire and thrown on the pile.”
Perhaps that’s a little hyperbolic. Perhaps not. Over the past ten years, the dosage of said antibiotic (called cefixime) needed to treat gonorrhea has risen steadily. In the JAMA study, researchers tracked 133 cases of gonorrhea at at Toronto sexual health clinic and found that cefixime failed to treat 7% of the cases.
While it’s a small study, that 7% number is nothing to laugh at. If antibiotic resistant gonorrhea has arrived, then the percentage of cases in which cefixime just isn’t enough is only going to go up. What’s worse? The study uses data collected on patients between 2010 and 2011, meaning that not only is antibiotic resistant gonorrhea here — it’s been here for some time, which means it has been spreading.
The fall of cefixime leaves just one treatment — an injectable antibiotic called ceftriaxone — as the last remaining firewall between us and gonorrhea that simply can’t be cured, relegating a lot of people to a lifetime of burning urination, blindness, and — as the above sign warns — general misery.
This really isn’t a laughing matter, I guess. But as Briana wrote last year, ”reading about how Gonorrhea became antibiotic resistant is a little bit like reading a post-apocalyptic super-hero plotline. But the superhero, at least for now, isn’t going to come out of some mad scientist’s lab: It’s going to come out of a drug store or health clinic, where you can get plenty of condoms to protect against gonorrhea (of any sort).”