As the world trembles at the increasing plight of antibacterial resistance a sliver of hope develops. A recent study at the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine has uncovered a potential new antibiotic to target gonorrhoea, a common sexually transmitted disease.
The infection, caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has seen increasing rates over the past five years. A Public Health England report in 2016 found that cases had risen by 53% between 2012 and 20151. Meanwhile, the bacteria are becoming resistant to the drugs used to treat it, resulting in the World Health Organisation placing it on their list of pathogens which urgently require new drugs2.
In a country where treatment is easily and freely available, it is easy to forget the threat STDs can pose. Unprotected sex can spread gonorrhoea; if untreated, it can result in complications including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women. Also, to make matters worse, the disease is often asymptomatic. The lack of symptoms means people may be unaware they’re infected and fail to take proper precautions, allowing the infection to spread more easily.
The new drug hoping to help – closthioamide – was originally isolated in 2010. Since then it has been tested against several drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA – which is an infection that can be picked up in hospitals. The team at the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine found that closthioamide was able to kill 98% of gonorrhoeal infections grown in the lab, including those which were resistant to common antibiotics. The results are extremely promising – and the drug itself can be created synthetically, meaning that it is easier to produce than many others, as drug production from natural sources is often in small-scales and expensive.
Researchers say, however, that clinical use of the drug is still years away. Prevention is still the best protection against STDs – something to remember as you pull into the club!
Edited by Richard Murchie
- Meikle, James. ‘Rise in Syphilis and Gonorrhoea Diagnoses in England’. The Guardian, 5 July 2016, sec. Society. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/05/syphilis-cases-england-rise-by-76-per-cent-four-years
- ‘WHO | WHO Publishes List of Bacteria for Which New Antibiotics Are Urgently Needed’. WHO. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/bacteria-antibiotics-needed/en