According to the Centers for Disease Control, we're slowly losing our ability to fight gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease.
Increasingly, gonorrhea is proving resistant to even the strongest forms of antibiotics. That means we may not be far from a time where some cases of gonorrhea can't be treated.
"During the past three years, the wily gonococcus has become less susceptible to our last line of antimicrobial defense, threatening our ability to cure gonorrhea," warns Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's sexually transmitted disease prevention program.
1.7 percent of gonorrhea cases in the US are currently resistant to cephalosporins, a class of drugs that has been the last resort treatment for stubborn STDs in the past. While that figure may not seem like a cause for alarm, it bears repeating that these types of gonorrhea cases are 17 times more common today than they were just six years ago.
The problem is explained succinctly by Nicole Mahoney, senior officer of the antibiotics and innovation project at PEW Charitable Trusts: "This is just one more example of a bigger problem-- bacteria are developing resistance faster than we're inventing new medicines to fight them." She added that she was not aware of any new gonorrhea-specific drugs in development now.
According to a PEW report, only two new classes of antibiotics have been introduced since 1968. This is likely because these types of drugs are costly to develop, while also being less profitable than other types of medicines.
But demand for newer, stronger antibiotics may soon skyrocket. News of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea comes hot on the heels of some other troubling news. According to USNews.com, antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found in 37 of the 50 states, including resistant forms of e. coli.
That means even those who practice safe sex may still need to worry about coming into contact with a bacterium that could be resistant to current treatments.