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Resistant gonorrhoea case demonstrates importance of safe sex

A UK case of Neisseria gonorrhoeae with high-level resistance to azithromycin and resistance to ceftriaxone has been acquired abroad.

Pills and a condom.

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Public Health England (PHE) has been investigating a UK case of Neisseria gonorrhoeae acquired in South East Asia which had high-level resistance to the 2 antibiotics, azithromycin and ceftriaxone, which are currently recommended for first-line treatment. The case has now been successfully treated with another antibiotic, ertapenem.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, Consultant Scientist and Head of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Section at PHE, said:

We are pleased to report that the case of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea has been successfully treated. Investigations have also revealed there has been no further spread of this infection within the UK. PHE continues to actively monitor and tackle the spread of antibiotic resistance in gonorrhoea and potential treatment failures.

Two similar cases have just been reported in Australia and serve as a timely reminder that we expect to see further cases of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea in the future. These cases will be challenging for healthcare professionals to manage. We urge the public to avoid getting or passing on gonorrhoea by using condoms consistently and correctly with all new and casual partners. If you think you have been at risk, you should seek an STI screen at a sexual health clinic.

Read the full Multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea in England: 2018 report.

Previous updates

28 March 2018

Dr Gwenda Hughes, Consultant Scientist and Head of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Section at PHE, said:

We are investigating a case who has gonorrhoea which was acquired abroad and is very resistant to the recommended first line treatment. First line treatment for gonorrhoea is a combination of 2 antibiotics (azithromycin and ceftriaxone). This is the first time a case has displayed such high-level resistance to both of these drugs and to most other commonly used antibiotics.

We are following up this case to ensure that the infection was effectively treated with other options and the risk of any onward transmission is minimised. PHE actively monitors, and acts on, the spread of antibiotic resistance in gonorrhoea and potential treatment failures, and has introduced enhanced surveillance to identify and manage resistant strains of infection promptly to help reduce further spread.

It is better to avoid getting or passing on gonorrhoea in the first place and everyone can significantly reduce their risk by using condoms consistently and correctly with all new and casual partners. Anyone who thinks they may have been at risk should seek an STI screen at a sexual health clinic.

Published 28 March 2018
Last updated 20 April 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added new UK case of antibiotic-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
  2. First published.