What is Antibiotic Resistant Gonorrhea or Super Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually-transmitted infection caused by the bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. 

Antibiotic-resistant Gonorrhea refers to strains of Gonorrhea that are not killed by antibiotics that were previously effective in killing off these bacteria. 

In the 1980s, penicillins and tetracyclines could kill off Gonorrhea. By the 1990s, these drugs were no longer effective and Fluoroquinolones were recommended as the first line treatment. By the 2000s, Fluoroquinolones resistance was commonplace and only one group of antibiotics remains as an effective treatment for Gonorrhea – Cephalosporins. By now, certain strains of Gonorrhea that are resistant to cephalosporins have already been detected and that is worrisome because if these medications become useless, we might face a situation where we cannot clear gonorrhea from a person’s body. 

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What drugs are super gonorrhea resistant to?

Super Gonorrhea is the colloquial term for strains of Gonorrhea that are extensively drug-resistant, with high-level resistance to the current recommended treatment for gonorrhea (ceftriaxone and azithromycin) including resistance to penicillin, sulphonamides, tetracycline, fluoroquinolones, macrolides.


What causes super gonorrhea? 

Super Gonorrhea is a problem that we have created. 

The unrestricted access, inappropriate selection and overuse of antibiotics over many decades has allowed the strains of gonorrhea to genetically mutate in such a way that they are no longer affected by these antibiotics. Extra genital infections in the rectum and throat may also play an important role in the development of resistant strains as gonorrhea can interact and exchange genetic material with other co-infections in these places.


How common is Super Gonorrhea?

Super Gonorrhea has been reported by several countries including France, Japan, Spain, the UK and Australia. The American CDC has not received any reports of verified clinical treatment failures to any cephalosporin in the United States to date. 


How does Gonorrhea spread?

Gonorrhea can be spread through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus of an infected partner. Ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted or acquired. Even if you have had gonorrhea in the past and was treated, you can still get reinfected again if you are exposed to it again. 


What are the symptoms of super gonorrhea?

The symptoms of super gonorrhea are the same as regular gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can infect different areas of the body. Most symptoms present within 1-2 weeks after exposure.

In males, the most commonly infected site is the genitourinary system. It can present with symptoms such as pain on passing urine, penile discharge, swelling at the tip of the penis and scrotal pain and swelling.

In females, the most commonly infected site is also the genitourinary system and and present with symptoms such as vaginal discharge, pain on passing urine, intermenstrual bleeding, painful intercourse, and mild lower abdominal pain

Gonorrhea can also infect other areas of the body such as the rectum, causing rectal pain, itching, discharge, or tenesmus. If gonorrhea infects the throat, you can get a persistent sore throat. Gonorrhea can also infect the eyes, causing conjunctivitis which may present with eye pain, discharge, and redness. If gonorrhea spreads by blood to the rest of the body including the brain, heart, bone, joints, skin and liver, this is termed Disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). While rare, DGI can be deadly and have long term complications. 


Does Gonorrhea always have symptoms?

Gonorrhea can have little to no symptoms at all in some people. That is the reason why it is so important to screen for STIs with every sexual encounter. 

A study has reported that more than 80% of people (both males and females) with Gonorrhea can have no symptoms. Do not wait for symptoms to appear before you screen for STIs. Do it regularly with every new sexual encounter. 

Also read: Rapid STD Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea PCR


What are other STDs that do not display symptoms and have serious complications if left untreated?

All STIs can have no symptoms at all. Because people do not experience any symptoms, they think that they do not have an STI and thus the spread of STIs continues. Other STIs we regularly test for include other urinary STIs such as Chlamydia, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Mycoplasma hominis and Trichomonas. What we can test for in the blood are STIs such as HIV, Syphilis, Herpes and Hepatitis B and C.


What happens if gonorrhea is treated effectively?

If gonorrhea is treated effectively (with the proper antibiotics), your symptoms should clear up, and subsequent follow up tests to test for clearance should come back as negative for gonorrhea.


What are the complications of Gonorrhea?

In females, untreated gonorrhea may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is an infection of the fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix. If left untreated, PID may cause permanent damage to the reproductive tract, which may lead to infertility. It may also lead to long-term pelvic pain.

Males with untreated gonorrhea may develop a condition called epididymitis. This condition is characterized by inflammation of the tubes near the testicles that carry semen. It can also lead to infertility. 

DGI is another complication of gonorrhea as well. 


What happens if you have drug resistant gonorrhea? Can I get rid of Antibiotic Resistant Gonorrhea?

If you have drug resistant gonorrhea, your doctor may opt to treat you with antibiotics that hopefully are effective against this strain of gonorrhea. Antibiotic sensitivity testing for that strain should be done. If it is truly multi-drug resistant, a referral to an infectious diseases specialist is appropriate, and they may have to treat you with antibiotics that are reserved for the worst kinds of infections. 


How do you reduce your risk of contracting these STIs?

Abstinence is the only way to reduce your risk to zero.

If you are sexually active, use barrier protection such as condoms, the right way. You can also speak to your partner to get tested for STIs before engaging in sexual activity.  A mutually monogamous relationship also carries a lower risk of STIs than having multiple sexual partners.

If you are sexually active with multiple sexual partners, get yourself tested regularly and treated. The presence of one STI can increase your risk of contracting another one more easily. Most STIs can easily be detected through swabs, urine or blood tests at your doctors. These are rather pain free and minimally invasive, so there should be no fear to get tested!

There are some STIs that are preventable through vaccinations. Vaccines are available against certain strains of HPV that may cause warts, cervical, anal and penile cancer. Effective vaccines against Hepatitis B are available as well.

Also read: What is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)?


How do I find out if I have been infected with Super Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is often diagnosed using a PCR test. This test can give results very fast and determine if a person is infected with Gonorrhea or not. However, this test cannot differentiate between regular Gonorrhea and Super Gonorrhea.

For that, a test called Gonorrhea Culture and Sensitivity has to be conducted. This test takes a longer time as the Gonorrhea bacteria has to be grown on a plate and tested against various antibiotics. This test is also less sensitive as for various reasons, sometimes the Gonorrhea bacteria cannot grow.

Also read: What Is Rapid Chlamydia & Gonorrhea PCR STD Testing?

If you think you may have been exposed to Super Gonorrhea, you have to see your Doctor immediately. DTAP clinics focus on STD screening and STD treatment. We offer rapid PCR testing for Gonorrhea (next day results) as well as culture tests to detect multi-drug resistant (Super) Gonorrhea. 

Speak to your doctor if you have any questions regarding Gonorrhea or other STDs.


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