A man in the UK has contracted a super-strength strain of gonorrhoea thought to be the first case globally to resist the main antibiotic treatment.
Public Health England (PHE) said the patient had a regular female partner in the UK, but contracted the infection, caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, during a sexual encounter with a woman in south-east Asia.
He attended a clinic for treatment in early 2018 but attempts to get rid of the sexually transmitted infection with the recommended treatments – a combination of antibiotics azithromycin and ceftriaxone – have failed.
“We are investigating a case who has gonorrhoea which was acquired abroad and is very resistant to the recommended first line treatment,” Dr Gwenda Hughes, the head of PHE’s STI section said.
“This is the first time a case has displayed such high-level resistance to both of these drugs and to most other commonly used antibiotics.”
An analysis of the case for PHE notes it is the “first global report” of the infection resisting both antibiotics
Gonorrhoea can lead to infertility if left untreated, or septicaemia in rare cases and is known to cause symptoms including unusual discharge from the sexual organ and inflammation.
Infected patients may experience discharge or pain while urinating, but around 10% of men and almost half of women do not suffer any symptoms.
Fears of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea spreading in the UK has prompted health officials to trace the man’s sexual partners to try to contain the spread.
The man’s UK partner tested negative for the infection, the PHE report said.
Dr Hughes added: “PHE actively monitors, and acts on, the spread of antibiotic resistance in gonorrhoea and potential treatment failures, and has introduced enhanced surveillance to identify and manage resistant strains of infection promptly to help reduce further spread.”
Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK after chlamydia, with the majority of cases affecting people under the age of 25.