Growing concern over untreatable sex super-bug

An untreatable sex super-bug is sparking concern as a strong new strain of gonorrhoea emerges in Auckland.  

The New Zealand Sexual Health Society said gonorrhoea was well-known for developing antibiotic resistance and many treatments once used were now ineffective.  

"While no cases of treatment failure have been reported in New Zealand, gonorrhoea strains with decreased susceptibility to the one effective antibiotic treatment remaining have been identified in the Auckland region," the society said in a statement today.  

"There are no new treatment options on the horizon."  

The society has released new guidelines on how to manage and detect the disease, in response to growing concerns about the venereal disease.  

"Internationally there is increasing concern regarding the emergence of an untreatable gonorrhoea super-bug, with reports that the susceptibility of gonorrhoea isolates to the recommended antibiotic treatment is decreasing globally," the Society added.



It said the World Health Organisation had asked all countries to produce their own guidelines to aid in prevention, diagnosis and control of gonorrhoea in response to the increasing threat.  

Dr Edward Coughlan, the society's president, said gonorrhoea infection did not always cause symptoms.  

"I would encourage those considered at greatest risk of gonorrhoea infections, especially sexually active young people and gay and bisexual men, to have regular sexual health check ups," Dr Coughlan said.  

"Early notification of possible or suspected treatment failure to specialist sexual health services is essential for early detection and containment of antibiotic-resistant cases", said Dr Anne Robertson, one of the New Zealand guideline's authors.  

The Society said regular sexual health checks for at-risk population groups and the use of condoms were the best strategies against sexually transmitted infections.  

Gonorrhoea was colloquially known as "the clap" and infected both men and women.  

It caused infections in the genitals, backside, and throat. The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the disease was a very common infection, especially among people aged 15-24.  

In recent years, the Gisborne region was the "clap capital" of the North Island, according to Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) and Ministry of Health statistics. In 2011, the region had an infection rate five times the national average.  

As of 2013, the region was still the most gonorrhoea-ridden, according to ESR statistics for 19 of the country's 20 district health boards.