Barry, who helped to reveal that cephalosporins are becoming unreliable and now works for the California Department of Public Health, says the news of burgeoning resistance has not reached either patients or most frontline physicians. “We need to make clinicians aware of the problem and to make patients aware that it is not normal for symptoms to come back,” he says.
For any infectious disease, the ultimate control strategy is vaccination, but so far attempts to create a vaccine against gonorrhea have failed. Meanwhile, although infectious disease experts strongly encourage research into new antibiotics for gonorrhea, only one clinical trial is under way, and it is investigating combinations of older drugs, not new compounds. Some older drugs, such as azithromycin, have already started losing effectiveness against gonorrhea bacteria.
All these efforts—to educate physicians and patients, to track resistant strains and to develop new treatments—must be carefully targeted and well coordinated with one another. If not, truly untreatable gonorrhea, and its expensive, destructive consequences, could be the worldwide result.
This article was originally published with the title Return of the Clap.