Health & wellness

Daily Dose

Sexually transmitted superbug on the way?

There was a bit of buzz recently about a new “sex superbug” making its way into the United States, but reports of an anti-biotic-resistant gonorrhea strain are premature, according to public health officials.

That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. It’s quite possible that the new strain, called H041, will appear in Boston within a year or two.

“It’s been on our radar screen for many years,” said Dr. Al DeMaria, an infectious disease specialist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

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Only one drug in the antibiotic arsenal can reliably treat the 2,300 people in Massachusetts who test positive for gonorrhea every year: the injectable ceftriaxone. The bacteria has developed resistance to nearly every other antibiotic. A handful of H041 infections have cropped up in Japan, France, and Spain over the past few years, but so far they haven’t spread. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently seen an increase in lab-tested strains showing some resistance to ceftriaxone even if they haven’t yet seen any H041 infections in this country. For this reason, the agency recommends treatment with ceftriaxone and azithromycin.

“That gives patients a bit more protection” said DeMaria, in case the bacteria strain doesn’t respond to one of the two antibiotics.