When STDs Become Untreatable

by Zoë Pollock

Last week the CDC announced that we're down to just one antibiotic that can effectively treat gonorrhea. Cord Jefferson translates:

In layman's terms, gonorrhea has gradually grown resistant to nearly every antibiotic we've created over the past several decades to destroy it. … According to a statement from the CDC's Director of STD Prevention, Dr. Gail Bolan, it is now "only a matter of time" until gonorrhea is resistant to our final, feeble antibiotic regimen. After that, we'll have nothing to stop it, which is not good news considering that 700,000 Americans come down with gonorrhea every year.

A scary thought considering gonorrhea can kill you and is very effective at making women infertile. Dan Avery argues "the AIDS epidemic is what might help us prevent a catastrophe":

Before AIDS, if you got a STD, your doctor gave you the cure and told you to tell your partners (wink, wink). But as AIDS cut a swath through society, learning how to tracking disease vectors became a life-or-death issue. … Before AIDS, medical professionals were not always diligent about sterility—and nobody bothered putting on gloves unless you were getting a prostate exam. Now, the importance placed on antibacterial soap, latex protection and other tools will help control the spread of gonorrhea, which can transfer from a patient’s genitals to a nurse’s hands to her eye.

That’s where some experts say we’re headed: working to control the spread of gonorrhea instead of administering a simple cure. Sound familiar?

Previous coverage of the gonorrhea threat here.