A new strain of gonorrhoea superbug called H041 has appeared in Japan and is resistant to all current recommended antibiotics. Experts warn it could become a world-wide STD threat to health within 10 years.
Once an easily treatable sexually-transmitted disease in the 1940s, when antibiotics were first used to treat gonorrhoea, it was observed that the gonorrhea bacterium (gonococci) rapidly develops antibiotic resistance. This new strain is now resistant to cephalosporin antibiotics - the last antibiotics which are in a doctor’s armoury to treat gonorrhea.
Doctors are left with no other option than to try untested medicines to combat H041. Carbapenems, not yet tested on gonorrhoea, is the most powerful family of antibiotics yet developed and remains the last option currently available for treating this new strain.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection and if left untreated can lead to infertility in men and women and even be life threatening if it reaches the blood or joints.
The infection, commonly known as 'the clap', is prevalent among 16-24 year olds who made up almost half the 16,500 new reported cases of gonorrhoea in 2008.
Advice from the sexual health charity FPA is, prevention is better than cure. Using condoms is highly recommended.