SMART BUG: Every time a new type of antibiotic is introduced to treat gonorrhoea the bug develops resistance to it, the WHO says. 
Picture: Bonile Bam

UNTREATABLE forms of a sexually-transmitted infection are spreading around the globe, the World Health Organization has warned.

At least three patients have been infected with the new strains of gonorrhoea, with more likely to follow, officials said.

Gonorrhoea, a dangerous bacterial infection that can cause infertility, is rapidly evolving to become immune to antibiotics.

Data published by the UN agency reveals the disease is now resistant to ciprofloxacin, a common antibiotic, in 97 per cent of countries surveyed.

When that happens doctors in the past have been able to reach for alternative drugs, but the pool of medicines that work against the infection is shrinking. Some 66 per cent of countries are reporting resistance against what used to be treatments of last-resort – antibiotics called extended-spectrum cephalosporins.

The three cases – in Japan, France and Spain – are probably ‘the tip of the iceberg’, officials warned. Dr Teodora Wi, WHO medical officer, said: ‘Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug. Every time you introduce a new type of antibiotic, this bug develops resistance to it.’

The WHO estimates 78million people are infected each year.

With almost 35,000 cases reported each year, it is the second most common STI in the UK after chlamydia.

Male symptoms include pain when urinating and inflammation, and it can sometimes cause infertility. But the more serious symptoms affect women, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, as well as an increased risk of HIV.

Dr Wi said: ‘These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries.’

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