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Super Gonorrhea Bugs Spur New Treatment Regimen in Europe

Pfizer Inc.’s Zithromax or a generic version of the antibiotic pill should be added to the standard treatment for gonorrhea to fight multidrug-resistant strains of the sexually transmitted bacterium, doctors in Europe said.

New European guidelines for sexually transmitted infections recommend giving azithromycin as well as the injected medicine ceftriaxone, which is beginning to lose its potency against gonorrhea. The guidelines also recommend patients be tested after finishing a course of treatment to check they are cured.

The changes, outlined in a report yesterday in the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s weekly journal Eurosurveillance, are in response to sporadic cases in which ceftriaxone and a similar antibiotic, cefixime, failed to eliminate Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the microbial cause of gonorrhea.

N. gonorrhoeae has developed resistance to all antimicrobial drugs previously used as first-line treatment. The once easily-treated infection is becoming a “major public health challenge,” the World Health Organization said in June. In 2008, the Geneva-based WHO estimated 106 million cases among adults worldwide, including 3.4 million in the agency’s European region.

“Gonorrhea now poses a potential public health disaster, with a very real threat that it may soon be untreatable in certain circumstances,” researchers in Sydney and Brisbane said in research published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy in May in which they recommended cases be treated with azithromycin plus ceftriaxone or a similar drug.

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