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CDC Issues New Guidelines to Ward Off Gonorrhea Superbug

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines on Friday outlining how doctors should treat the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. The guidelines are an update to a similar document that the CDC issued in 2010, in light of the fact that the agency has discovered that the disease is becoming more difficult to treat.

The CDC's new guidelines for the treatment of gonorrhea specifically advise doctors to stop treating the disease with the antibiotic cefixime as their first course of action. Cefixime is one of the last remaining antibiotics that are still effective in treating the disease. As such, the CDC is now recommending a cocktail of other drugs be used to treat the infection before resorting to cefixime.

Here is some of the key information regarding the CDC's new guidelines and gonorrhea's increased drug resistance.

* Jonathan Zenilman, who works for Johns Hopkins, told NPR on Thursday that gonorrhea infections used to be able to be treated by a whole host of common antibiotics, including penicillin and tetracycline.

* The use of these common antibiotics to treat a wide-ranging list of infections, along with the disease's ability to mutate rapidly, has slowly rendered them ineffective in treating gonorrhea, according to Zenilman.

* A report by WebMD back in June stated that gonorrhea started becoming resistant to common antibiotics like penicillin or tetracycline in the 1980's.

* There are now only two antibiotics that can still effectively fight gonorrhea--cefixime and ceftriaxone.

* The CDC's new guidelines now recommend that doctors begin treating a patient's gonorrhea infection with a single injection of ceftriaxone, in combination with the more common antibiotics doxycycline or azithromycin in pill form.

* By advising doctors to use a single injectable dose of ceftriaxone along with more common antibiotics, scientists at the CDC are hoping to delay the moment when both ceftriaxone and cefixime also become ineffective, according to USA Today.

* The director of the CDC's Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention division, Gail Bolan, called the CDC's new treatment guidelines a "critical preemptive strike to preserve the last effective treatment option," as quoted by Reuters.

* The first known failure of ceftriaxone and cefixime to successfully treat a case of gonorrhea reportedly occurred in Japan in 2003. In 2009, a so-called gonorrhea "superbug" was found there as well. It has been subsequently found at least once in Spain and France, but not yet in the U.S., according to USA Today.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.

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