Gonorrhea HO41 Superbug may be 'Worse Than AIDS'

First Posted: May 06, 2013 12:38 PM EDT

A new antibiotic-resistant form of gonorrhea first detected in a female sex worker in Japan two years ago has the potential to be as deadly as the AIDS virus, according to a new report.

Gonorrhoea HO41 bacteria has also been found in Hawaii, California and Norway, and "the potential for disaster is great", William Smith of the US National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) said, according to CNBC.

"It's an emergency situation,"Smith warned. "As time moves on, it's getting more hazardous."

"This strain is a very tricky bug and we don't have anything medically to fight it right now."

The new strain of gonorrhea reportedly resists existing drugs and the NCSD has asked the government for an extra $53 million in funding to prepare for future health issues.

"This might be a lot worse than Aids in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine said, according to CNBC, claiming that "getting gonorrhea from this strain might put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium that can easily grow in warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes in women, and the urethra in women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus.

Furthermore, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and even, in some cases, infertility. The disease is the second most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection in North America

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England's Chief Medical Officer, recently advised the Government to add the threat of drug-resistant gonorrhoea to the civil emergencies risk register.

"We have seen a worrying rise in cases of drug resistant gonorrhoea over the last decade," Davies said, according to Sky News. 

"Antimicrobial resistance to common drugs will increasingly threaten our ability to tackle infections and the Health Protection Agency's work is vital to addressing this threat."

Gonorrhoea can be hard to detect, without obvious blisters or pain. It shows no symptoms in 50 percent of women, and 5 percent of men.

Researchers are hoping that raising awareness of the condition can prevent future health problems. However, as noted by professor Cathy Ison, head of the National Reference Laboratory for Gonorrhoea which is part of Public Health England, according to the Today programme, "there is a possibility that if we don't do something then it could become untreatable by 2015."

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