WHO warns some gonorrhoea cases 'untreatable by all known antibiotics'

Health officials are warning the recorded cases "may just be the tip of the iceberg"

WHO warns some gonorrhoea cases 'untreatable by all known antibiotics'

Picture by: C3574 Michael Rosenfeld/DPA/PA Images

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is warning that antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea is on the rise.

An estimated 78 million are infected with the sexually-transmitted infection every year.

According to WHO, data from 77 countries has highlighted some cases where a gonorrhoea infection is 'untreatable by all known antibiotics'.

It says that such 'super' infections have been recorded in some high-income countries with robust surveillance and monitoring systems.

WHO medical officer Dr Teodora Wi explained: "The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them."

In relation to the untreatable cases, Dr Wi noted they "may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhoea is actually more common".

Only three candidate drugs to treat gonorrhoea are said to be undergoing development and trials.

Dr Manica Balasegaram of the WHO's Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) observes: "We urgently need to seize the opportunities we have with existing drugs and candidates in the pipeline. 

"Any new treatment developed should be accessible to everyone who needs it, while ensuring it’s used appropriately, so that drug resistance is slowed as much as possible."

The organisation also says infections can be prevented through information and education promoting safer sex practices, and is also calling for "rapid, accurate, point-of-care diagnostic tests".