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Gonorrhoea 'sometimes impossible' to treat due to antibiotic-resistance - WHO

An estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea every year.

Many people who are infected with gonorrhoea do not have any symptoms, so they go undiagnosed and untreated.
Many people who are infected with gonorrhoea do not have any symptoms, so they go undiagnosed and untreated.
Image: Kateryna Kon via Shutterstock

GLOBAL DATA HAS indicated that antibiotic resistance is making gonorrhoea “much harder” and “sometimes impossible” to treat, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Data from 77 countries has indicated that new treatments are needed, as some countries are finding cases of the infection that are untreatable by all known antibiotics.

“These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhoea is actually more common,” according to Dr Teodora Wi, Medical Officer at WHO.

Each year, an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea, a common sexually-transmitted infection which can cause infertility.

Gonorrhoea can infect the genitals, rectum, and throat, and complications include pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, as well as an increased risk of HIV.

The antibiotic-resistant forms of the infection, or ‘superbug’ are causing concerns about future treatments.

“The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them,” said Dr Wi.


Gonorrhoea can be prevented through safer sexual behaviour, in particular consistent and correct condom use.

Information, education, and communication can encourage safer sex practices, improve people’s ability to recognise the symptoms of gonorrhoea so that they can seek treatment as soon as possible.

A lack of public awareness, a lack of training of health workers, and stigma around sexually transmitted infections contribute to rates of gonorrhoea.

The World Health Organisation’s warning is based on research that examined possible new forms of treatment for gonorrhoea. The research was published ahead of the STI & HIV World Congress, which is taking place in Brazil this year.

Read: Doctors warn of ‘end of the road for antibiotics’ as drug-resistant superbug found in the US

Read: Super-gonorrhoea a ‘serious threat’ in Ireland

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