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CDC Recommending New Drugs to Treat Gonorrhea

April 13, 2007

CDC on Thursday recommended that physicians begin using a different class of medications to treat gonorrhea after surveys showed that drug-resistant cases of the sexually transmitted infection are on the rise nationwide, the AP/Forbes reports. Gonorrhea, which is believed to infect more than 700,000 people in the U.S. annually, increases the risk of HIV transmission and can cause infertility in men and women, according to the AP/Forbes (Yee, AP/Forbes, 4/13). According to a study published in the March 15 edition of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, gonorrhea cases increased 42% from 2000 to 2005 in the West but decreased 10% nationwide. Public health officials have found that some gonorrhea strains are resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics, which are used to treat the STI (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/16). The CDC recommendations urge doctors treating gonorrhea to cease use of fluoroquinolones and begin to use a single class of antibiotics known as cephalosporins, the Los Angeles Times reports (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 4/13). The agency also recommended the use of an injectable drug called ceftriaxone, manufactured by Roche as Rocephin, to treat genital, anal and throat gonorrhea (Dunham, Reuters, 4/12). CDC advised doctors to stop using ciprofloxacin, sold by Bayer as Cipro (Stein, Washington Post, 4/13). Cephalosporins must be given as a shot and are not as readily stocked as a current gonorrhea treatment Cipro, the AP/Forbes reports (AP/Forbes, 4/13). The recommendations follow a survey of 26 areas across the country that found that at least 25% of all gonorrhea infections in Long Beach, Calif.; Orange County, Calif.; San Diego, Calif.; San Francisco, Philadelphia and Honolulu were drug-resistant (Los Angeles Times, 4/13). "Although the cephalosporins offer several potential options for treating gonorrhea, the lack of additional classes of antibiotics is a serious concern," John Douglas, director of the CDC's Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Prevention, said, adding, "There are currently no new drugs for gonorrhea in the drug development pipeline." Douglas said that the agency has not seen any "significant resistance to cephalosporins to date" but added that "any emerging resistance would be a significant public health concern" (Reuters, 4/12).

NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday reported on the recommendations. The segment includes comments from Douglas and Henry Masur, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and chief of the clinical care medicine department at the NIH Clinical Center (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/13). Audio of the segment is available online.

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