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Gonorrhea increasingly resistant to antibiotics
ATLANTA, Georgia (Reuters) -- Gonorrhea, the nation's No. 2 sexually transmitted disease, is showing increased resistance to the antibiotics commonly used to treat it, federal health officials said on Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the drug-resistant strains are making it more difficult to successfully treat gonorrhea. More than 360,000 cases of the disease were reported last year.
"We're very concerned," said Dr. Chris Iverson, a CDC epidemiologist.
"We lost in the 1980s the ability to treat gonorrhea with penicillin and tetracycline. We now are seeing development of resistance to two newer antibiotics, limiting our options," he added.
A CDC-sponsored surveillance system has detected the first known cases of gonorrhea resistant to azithromycin, a commonly used antibiotic. A dozen cases were reported in Kansas City, Missouri, last year.
In addition, cases of fluoroquinolone-resistant gonorrhea, commonplace in Asia and the Pacific Islands, have risen sharply in Hawaii since 1997, the CDC said.
Two fluoroquinolone antibiotics -- ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin -- have been recommended by the CDC for treating gonorrhea since 1989. The drugs are preferred because they are inexpensive and can be given orally in a single dose.
In Hawaii, 1.4 percent of gonorrhea strains tested in the laboratory in 1997 were resistant to fluoroquinolones. By 1999, the prevalence had risen to 9.5 percent. In the Philippines, the resistance rate is as high as 70 percent, Iverson said.
Because of the increase, the CDC recommended that health-care providers ask patients with gonorrhea if they or their sex partners could have acquired the disease in Hawaii, Asia or Pacific islands.
If so, they should be treated with cefixime or ceftriazone, drugs for which no gonorrhea resistance has been reported in the United States, the CDC said.
Gonorrhea is the nation's second most-common sexually transmitted disease, after chlamydia, which infects an estimated 3 million people a year.
Gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammation and infertility in women and can also facilitate the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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