State health officials warn of concerning strain of gonorrhea

In 2011, Mississippi had the second highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the country.
In 2011, Mississippi had the second highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the country.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 3:47 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports a novel strain of gonorrhea has been detected in the state after a resident showed reduced response to multiple antibiotics.

The DPH also says there is a second similar case in the state as well.

“....Another case with genetic markers that indicate a similar drug response. This is the first time that resistance or reduced response to five classes of antibiotics has been identified in gonorrhea in the United States,” said the MA DPH in a statement sent to our newsroom Thursday afternoon.

Western Mass News is told in both cases, the individuals were successfully cured with ceftriaxone which is the current antibiotic recommended for the treatment of gonorrhea.

“To date, no direct connection between the two individuals has been identified,” noted the MA DPH.

Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection. The MA DPH explains that it may present without symptoms, and if left untreated, can result in pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and other health problems.

“A genetic marker common to these two Massachusetts residents was also previously seen in a case in Nevada, though that strain retained sensitivity to at least one class of antibiotics. Overall, these cases are an important reminder that strains of gonorrhea in the US are becoming less responsive to a limited arsenal of antibiotics,” the MA DPH reports.

State health officials are conducting contact tracing.

“Working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local hospitals and health centers, DPH is expanding its testing of gonorrhea specimens for evidence of this strain in other patients,” notes the MA DPH.

The CDC recommends that high doses of the antibiotic ceftriaxone be used to treat all gonorrhea cases and that patients get follow-up tests to ensure the bacteria infection has been successfully treated.

“The discovery of this strain of gonorrhea is a serious public health concern which DPH, the CDC, and other health departments have been vigilant about detecting in the US,” said Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke. “We urge all sexually active people to be regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections and to consider reducing the number of their sexual partners and increasing their use of condoms when having sex. Clinicians are advised to review the clinical alert and assist with our expanded surveillance efforts.”

According to state health officials, Gonorrhea cases have been going up in Massachusetts and nationwide, which adds to concerns about the potential spread of this strain because it is difficult to treat.

The DPH says preliminary data collected by the CDC shows that laboratory-confirmed cases of gonorrhea have increased 312% since a low of 1,976 cases in 2009 to 8,133 in 2021. Nationwide that number has risen by 131%. This was between 2009 and 2021, with 696,764 of those cases reported in the U.S. in 2021.