New STD Superbug: Gonorrhea Evolves Multi-drug Resistance

June 6th, 2012

NewsRescue– The sexually transmitted Gonorrhea bacteria has been discovered to have evolved into a dangerous, multi-drug resistant superbug.

Known to cause various symptoms from penile and vaginal discomfort or burning pain and discharge to epididymitis, pelvic inflammatory disease and even affecting joints and heart valves. Gonorrhea infection, caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria upon infection of women often leads to infertility, abortions and ectopics, and in pregnancy causes blindness in babies.

According to a release from the WHO, cephalosporins, the last line in defense against the infection are now becoming ineffective in combating infection.

Resistance to therapy has been found in Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The consequences of the multi-drug resistance, which is precipitated by lack of adherence to dose regimens and compliance to drug prescriptions; also due to overzealous use of antibiotics, is ‘deadly’, and more so in the ‘third world, where there is less access to advanced therapy.

Evolution of the newest superbug

In February last year, the Northwestern University discovered human DNA in gonorrhea genome. This land breaking discovery explained and predicted the capacity of gonorrhea to rapidly evolve.

Taking up and incorporating human DNA into its own genome enables a limitless ability for the bacteria to re-conform and ‘transform’ its DNA sequences.

According to the LATimes:

Anderson said the team didn’t know how the human DNA functioned in N. gonorrhoeae (that’s something he and his colleagues will study in the future,) nor precisely how the DNA got there in the first place.

Scientists have observed similar genetic transfers across species, he said — including relatively frequent transfers between different bacteria, between bacteria and viruses or between bacteria and other microbes such as yeast. One particularly significant exchange involves antibiotic resistance genes; when bacteria share these, it can make infections harder to treat with antibiotics.

But Anderson said that to his knowledge, this is the first time researchers have observed a direct gene transfer from humans to a pathogenic bacterium.  “This is a very rare observation,” he said.

Gonorrhea is transmitted by vaginal, oral and anal sex. Over 100 million people are infected with the bacteria every year.

The consequence of its drug resistance is grave.