Superbug Gonorrhea Spreading Across Europe

June 13, 2012

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) Jun 11 - "Superbug" strains of gonorrhea which are becoming untreatable accounted for almost one in 10 cases of the sexually transmitted disease in Europe in 2010, more than double the rate of the year before, health officials said on Monday.

The drug-resistant strains are also spreading fast across the continent, officials warned. They were found in 17 European countries in 2010, seven more than in the previous year.

Gonorrhea was the second most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Europe in 2010, with more than 32,000 infections, data from the Stockholm-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showed.

Even though chlamydia was the most frequently reported STI, with more than 345,000 cases, the ECDC's director Dr. Marc Sprenger singled out gonorrhea as presenting a "critical situation."

He said the increase in cases of superbug strains meant there was a risk gonorrhea may become an untreatable disease in the near future.

The proportion of gonorrhea cases with resistance to the antibiotic recommended to treat the disease, cefixime, rose from 4% in 2009 to 9% in 2010.

The ECDC report follows a warning from the World Health Organization that virtually untreatable forms of drug-resistant gonorrhea were spreading around the world.

"Public health experts and clinicians need to be aware of the current critical situation and should be vigilant for treatment failures," Sprenger said in a statement.

The ECDC's sexually transmitted infections report covered data and trends on five STIs -- syphilis, congenital syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) -- in the EU and European Economic Area from 1990 to 2010.

It found diverging trends in sexually transmitted diseases across Europe, with a rapidly increasing trend for chlamydia and slightly decreasing trends for gonorrhea and syphilis.


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