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About 800,000 Americans at Risk From Soon-to-be Untreatable Gonorrhea

Sep 24, 2016 06:35 AM EDT

Health officials are starting to get worried over the cluster of cases of gonorrhea in Hawaii that showed high-level resistance and reduced susceptibility to antibiotics.

"Our last line of defense against gonorrhea is weakening," said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, in a in a report from Washington Post. "If resistance continues to increase and spread, current treatment will ultimately fail and 800,000 Americans a year will be at risk for untreatable gonorrhea."

According to a report from Fox News, the cluster cases of gonorrhea in Hawaii include six men and a woman. All the reported patients were treated with the two-drug combination of ceftriaxone and azithromycin. However, the Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes gonorrhea, showed very high-level resistance to azithromycin and decreased susceptibility to ceftriaxone.

The cases of gonorrhea in Hawaii marks the first time a cluster of infections in the U.S. showed resistance to powerful antibiotics.

"Hawaii is on the front line for antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea - we've been one of the first states to see declining effectiveness of each drug over the years," said Alan Katz, M.D., M.P.H., professor of public health at the University of Hawaii, in a statement. "That's made us extremely vigilant, so we were able to catch this cluster early and treat everyone found who was linked to the cluster. But the future risk of gonorrhea becoming resistant to both of the recommended therapy medications in the United States is troubling."

Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can infect both male and female. Young people aging 15 to 24 years old, who are sexually active, can be at risk of acquiring the bacteria.

Abstinence is the best way to avoid the infection. CDC is also advising people to be in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner tested negative for gonorrhea and other STDs. The right way of using latex condoms could also prevent the spread of gonorrhea.

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