Drug resistant gonorrhoea outbreak in UK

Health authorities in England warn that a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhoea will cause very serious problems if it ...
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Health authorities in England warn that a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhoea will cause very serious problems if it becomes more widespread.

An outbreak of highly drug-resistant gonorrhoea has been detected in the north of England, triggering a national alert hours before Rugby World Cup festivities kick off in the country.

Fifteen cases have been detected by Public Health England so far, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said.

Reports to PHE's sexually transmitted bacteria reference unit (STBRU) of cases of the infection being highly resistant to the azithromycin drug have previously been rare, it added.

The outbreak, which was first detected in Leeds in March, has since spread, with cases reported in patients from Macclesfield, Oldham and Scunthorpe.

The All Blacks play their fourth Rugby World Cup match in Newcastle, which is north of Leeds, on October 9. Their other pool games are in London and Cardiff.

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All of the cases involve heterosexual patients, and some people have reported partners from other parts of England.

"An outbreak control team meeting has been convened and STBRU are currently performing next generation sequencing on these strains to better understand the molecular epidemiology," the association said.

"PHE is concerned that the effectiveness of current front-line dual therapy for gonorrhoea will be threatened if this resistant strain continues to spread unchecked."

The number of infections detected may seem small, Peter Greenhouse, a consultant in sexual health based in Bristol said, but added there could be more undetected cases.

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He told the BBC the azithromycin highly-resistant outbreak is the first one that has triggered a national alert and authorities need to stamp it out as quickly as possible.

"If this becomes the predominant strain in the UK we're in big trouble, so we have to be really meticulous in making sure each of these individuals has all their contacts traced and treated."

There were almost 35,000 cases of gonorrhoea reported in England last year - it is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK after chlamydia.

The majority of cases affect people under the age of 25.

Around 10 per cent of men and almost half of women with the infection do not experience symptoms.

 - AAP

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