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5 Things You Need to Know About the Gonorrhea Superbug

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long suspected that gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease, was becoming less and less responsive to treatment. This week, their suspicions were confirmed when a new, untreatable gonorrhea strain was discovered in Japan.

The strain, otherwise known as the gonorrhea super bug, is formally named H041 and is multidrug-resistant, which means no known form of antibiotic can treat it. Though gonorrhea is hardly the worst STI or STD to get, it is the most common. Experts believe this strain could spread quickly through the world, so here are 5 things you need to know about the gonorrhea super bug.

1. This new super strain is but a result of evolution. Some strains of neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterial organism that causes gonorrhea, are more responsive to antibiotics than others. And while antibiotics kill off most of the bacteria, there is a batch of surviving bacteria left behind that can reproduce and "pass on their more-robust-than-average genes to their offspring." The more this process repeats, the more likely it is that this bacteria becomes drug-resistant.

2. Men and women with gonorrhea often don't show symptoms. Some people may not experience anything at all, others will see symptoms between one and 14 days after they've been infected. And according to the CDC, there are 700,000 new cases of gonorrhea in the U.S each year and 340 million new cases globally. The infection can be contracted and passed through oral, vaginal and anal sex, so it's important for partners to get tested regularly as men and women don't often show symptoms. If a woman does have symptomatic gonorrhea, she may experience vaginal discharge, frequent urination and pain or burning when urinating, as well as pain between periods. As for men, they may experience pain during urination and discharge from their penis.

3. Doctors treat gonorrhea with cephalosporin. Since gonorrhea is resistant to penicillin, tetracycline and fluoroquinolones, doctors use cephalosporin and/or azithromycin and doxycycline to treat the infection. However, when the strain becomes resistant to cephalosporin, there won't be any treatment readily available. But for the time being, the CDC recommends you use dual therapy to treat the infection, i.e., use more than one drug. Once you receive treatment, be sure to finish all of your medication and abstain from sex until you do so, as a means to eliminate the risk of passing it along to another partner.

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