Just in time for Valentine’s Day: The Incurable Clap

This story is just a con­tin­u­a­tion on my belief that we’ve doomed our­selves as a species with the over-application and over-prescription of antibi­otics in the past cou­ple decades to deal with lit­tle things.  As a result, it has cre­ated a whole-set of resis­tant strains of what were once cur­able dis­eases, which some­day might kill us all.

The lat­est to now add to the list: Gon­or­rhea, aka “The Clap.”

The fears of major health orga­ni­za­tions have come true: Gon­or­rhea that is immune to the last remain­ing effec­tive oral antibi­otic has been detected in at least nine North Amer­i­can patients, mean­ing the era of “incur­able” gon­or­rhea could be close.

In a study released Tues­day in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, a group of sci­en­tists led by Vanessa Allen of Pub­lic Health Ontario, found that 6.7 per­cent of patients with gon­or­rhea at a Toronto clinic still had the dis­ease after a round of cephalosporins, the last effec­tive oral antibi­otic used to treat the dis­ease. Of 133 patients who returned for a “test of cure” visit, nine remained gonorrhea-positive. This is the first time cephalosporin-resistant gon­or­rhea has been found in humans in North America.

Last year, both the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion and the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol warned that untreat­able gonorrhea—the world’s sec­ond most com­mon sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted infection—could soon be a real­ity as the bac­te­ria showed increas­ing resis­tance to cephalosporins in lab tests.

These are the clin­i­cal cases we’ve been wait­ing for,” Allen says. “This is the trans­la­tion of the lab infor­ma­tion into what the clin­i­cal con­se­quence is.”

Pre­vi­ously, there had been a cou­ple indi­vid­ual case reports of untreat­able gon­or­rhea cases in the United King­dom, Aus­tria, France, Nor­way, and Japan. In an accom­pa­ny­ing edi­to­r­ial, Robert Kirk­caldy of the CDC writes that gon­or­rhea is quickly becom­ing a more threat­en­ing disease.

The nine cases found in Canada were even­tu­ally cured of their ail­ment.  But instead of hav­ing to take the tra­di­tion pro­to­col of cephalosporin tablets, they were given an injec­tion of the antibi­otic cef­tri­ax­one, which is now seen by the CDC and WHO as the last line of defense.

What hap­pens when the bugs evolve past that antibi­otic is anyone’s guess.

ADDENDUM — You know why reli­gions and other out-of-date think­ing told peo­ple to avoid sex until after mar­riage?  It was in part to help aid in stop­ping the spread of dis­ease.  Those crazy, old, right-wingers might have been on to some­thing it seems.

Ah well, death by pesti­lence.  Hope the car­nal plea­sure is worth it.

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