Massachusetts detects troubling new strain of gonorrhea

Massachusetts health officials have detected a strain of gonorrhea, never before seen in the United States, that shows signs of resistance to every recommended treatment for

the disease. The bacteria were found in two Massachusetts residents, both of whom were cured with standard treatment. But the new bug’s genetic profile indicates that

gonorrhea, which has already developed resistance to nearly all the antibiotics used to treat it, is starting to gain the ability to overpower the one medication doctors still

use. “We are getting close to an era where [patients] may no longer respond” to the drug, said Dr. Katherine Hsu, medical director of the division of STD Prevention and

HIV/AIDS at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The discovery comes as sexually transmitted infections, especially gonorrhea, are soaring nationwide, and the

ability of many microbes to outsmart the drugs used to kill them is a growing worry. “We are down to very few – very few – options. The concern is we’ll get to a place where

there are no options,” said Dr. Helen Boucher, chief academic officer of the Tufts Medicine health system and a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic

Resistant Bacteria. “This is a common infection in young healthy people. … There’s only one thing, and that one thing may not work any more.” Dr. Ruanne Barnabas, chief of

the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, called the strain’s discovery “significant.” “But given how mobile we are as a global community, it is

not surprising,” she said.