Gonorrhoea ‘super-superbugs’ triple in six months
Cases of a strain of gonorrhoea impervious to an antibiotic have almost tripled in six months, the latest report from the National Alert System for Critical Antimicrobial Resistance (CARAlert) reveals.
The result was a “warning shot across the bow” for doctors and public health officials fighting antibiotic resistance, CARAlert’s senior medical adviser said.
A total of 742 reports of critically resistant bacteria were collected by the early-warning system from 65 laboratories nationwide between April and September last year, a 75 per cent rise on the 423 cases reported in the same period during 2016.
A spike in the number of reports of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterial strain responsible for gonorrhoea that is resistant to the antibiotic azithromycin, accounted for most of the overall increase.
Alerts for the strain rose by 182 per cent, from 121 to 342, according to the report released on Tuesday by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.
Gonorrhoea that is not susceptible to azithromycin is now the most frequently reported “critical antimicrobial resistance” (CAR) bacterium that cannot be treated with, or is a major threat to, last-line antibiotics. CAR bacteria have been dubbed “super-superbugs”.
N. gonorrhoeae accounted for 47 per cent of all reports over the six-month period.
Victoria and NSW accounted for the bulk of N. gonorrhoeae cases, with 160 and 120 reports respectively.
A dual antibiotic treatment (ceftriaxone and azithromycin) for gonorrhoea was introduced in Australia in 2014 as part of a strategy to delay the rise of a strain resistant to the first-line antimicrobial ceftriaxone.