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A swab of a gonorrhea strain. New research indicates that the STD could be on the road to incurability.
More than 300,000 people contract gonorrhea every year, making it the second most-common STD.
But treating it may soon be impossible.
The Centers for Disease Control now reports that the number of effective treatments for it have dwindled to just one and it's only a matter of time before gonorrhea becomes resistant to that option, too.
"A decade ago, physicians may have had upwards of five different treatments to choose from," said Dr. Robert Kirkcaldy, who tracks the spread of gonorrhea for the CDC. "This bacteria is very good at mutating and being able to develop antibiotic resistance."
While he stresses that the current treatment is still effective, Dr. Kirkcaldy said there is evidence worldwide that the bacteria is developing a resistance to that.
"We do think that because of this, it is indeed a wake-up call," he said, adding that drug manufacturers may not be fast enough in developing a treatment before the bacteria out-speeds that, too.
This means that it's more imperative for people to avoid contracting it in the first place.
"Protecting yourself from gonorrhea has never been more important," said Dr. Kirkcaldy, "and if someone is infected, it's important that they get treated and also that their sexual partner gets treated. This helps gonorrhea from spreading in the community. It also helps prevent people from getting reinfected."
For information on recognizing and treating gonorrhea, you can find more through the CDC.