The CDC has issued a report detailing its findings in attempting to trace the increasing difficulty in treating gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause severe discomfort, serious medical problems (such as sterility) for both genders and in very rare cases, death.
To learn more about the evolutionary history of the disease, the CDC looked at data regarding 17 major cities in the United States between the years 1991 and 2006. They found that gonorrhea was more common in cities with low resistance, but ominously, they also found that rates of gonorrhea were rising faster in cities with high resistance. They note that currently, there are approximately 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea each year in this country. The real problem is that there are now so few antibiotics that are able to treat the disease, and while no strains of the bacteria that are resistant to them have been found so far in the United States, the same cannot be said for other countries.
The overriding conclusion of the researchers is that the world is now sitting on the precipice of losing the ability to fight a major bacterial infection. Worse perhaps, is that it may mark the first of many others to come. Gonorrhea infections typically only last for a few weeks or months, in most cases the immune system eventually wins over (after the disease has caused sometimes irreparable damage). The same cannot be said for some other bacterial infections that may also soon become untreatable. For that reason, scientists around the world continue to scramble to find alternatives.
In the meantime, the CDC is predicting that the spread of treatment-resistant gonorrhea is imminent, and because of that the country (and the rest of the world) will soon begin to experience widespread outbreaks.