Treating STD: Test can identify which gonorrhea patients are likely to benefit from common, cheap antibiotic

By identifying people who are likely to benefit from a common and inexpensive antibiotic, the screening tool can fight against the spread of multidrug-resistant gonorrhea

Treating STD: Test can identify which gonorrhea patients are likely to benefit from common, cheap antibiotic
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Scientists claim that a new test can outsmart a particular strain of sexually-transmitted bacteria, gonorrhea, which has evolved to resist common drugs. By identifying which patients will likely benefit from a common and inexpensive antibiotic, the screening tool can fight against the spread of multidrug-resistant gonorrhea.

The drug in question is an antibiotic, ciprofloxacin. "It was the first-line treatment for gonorrhea worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. It is an inexpensive, safe, and highly effective single-tablet treatment for susceptible infections," Dr Jeffrey Klausner, the study's lead author and a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW).

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However, in 2007, the drug lost favor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stopped recommending the antibiotic, following reports of bacterial resistance. “Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a growing and concerning public health risk against which we have few effective deterrents,” the NIH Director Dr Francis S Collins, said in a different statement. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium named Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. If left untreated, it can lead to infertility, according to the CDC. The infection has become one of the top five urgent threats to public health. Giving gonorrhea the ability to resist ciprofloxacin is a mutation. The mutated version of the bacteria will not respond to the drug. Further, it will lead to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. And it is here that the test finds application. It was developed three years ago to detect that mutation from infected patient samples. In this study, the team put the screening tool to the test.

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The CDC currently recommends cephalosporin antibiotics. "Gonorrhea is one of the most common drug-resistant infections worldwide and is becoming harder to treat. Current treatment methods require an antibiotic injection, which is expensive and painful," said Klausner, who is also an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. 

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The screening tool identified 106 participants who were infected with wild-type gyrA serine and were likely to respond to the treatment. All of them received ciprofloxacin and were successfully treated, the researchers said. "In the United States, 70-80% of gonococcal infections are susceptible to ciprofloxacin. Unfortunately, outside the US, in Asia and South America, that is much lower," Klausner explained. He, however, added that most infections in Africa and Europe are vulnerable to the antibiotic. The researchers are hoping to develop screening tools for other pills as well. "The current test only predicts resistance to ciprofloxacin. We are working on other tests for other antibiotics like cefixime and ceftriaxone, which are commonly used to treat gonorrhea in Asia," Klausner noted.

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The pill offers a faster alternative to conventional treatment, the researchers said. The findings, however, suffer from a few limitations, including that it enrolled a relatively small number of people. Besides, participants in the study were asymptomatic, meaning they showed no symptoms. 

The study is published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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