Data released by The World Health Organization (WHO) On July 7, 2017 (Read Article) revealed that cases of gonorrhoea are increasingly more difficult to treat due to widespread resistance to antibiotics that were traditionally used to treat those infections. According to the WHO report:
- Ciprofloxacin: 97% of reporting countries found drug-resistant strains.
- Azithromycin: 81% of reporting countries found increasing numbers of resistant strains.
- Cephalosporins: 66% of reporting countries see emergence of resistance to oral cefixime or injectable ceftriaxone.
In most countries, extended-spectrum cephalosporins (ECS) are the only antibiotics that remain effective for treating most cases of gonorrhoea, but resistance to those is on the rise. Consequently, WHO issued an updated recommendation last year advising doctors to treat with 2 antibiotics: ceftriaxone and azithromycin.
It might be surprising to learn that an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea each year in both high- and low-income countries. But few commercial pharmaceutical companies are investing in development of new, more effective antibiotics because treatments are needed only for short time periods, and treatments become less effective as resistance develops. As a result, only 3 new candidate antibiotics are currently in clinical development: solithromycin (Cempra Inc.), zoliflodacin (Entasis Therapeutics) and gepotidacin (GlaxoSmithKline).
Also lacking are affordable, rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests for gonorrhoea that can predict which antibiotics will work on particular strains as well as, ultimately, a vaccine to prevent gonorrhoea.
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and WHO have formed the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) to address these issues.