Untreatable gonorrhea strain found in Japan

Scientists fear how far the strain might have spread

Untreatable gonorrhea strain found in Japan

We know our readers are a sensible crowd, but if you're thinking of making use of the Tokyo sex article we published late last month, spare a brainwave or two to make sure you're packing protection. We say this as a report emerged at the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research conference in Quebec earlier this week that a strain of apparently untreatable gonorrhea has been discovered in Japan.

The discovery was made by a team led by Dr Magnus Unemo (Sweden) and Dr Makoto Ohnishi (Japan), following a case reported in a Japanese sex worker that proved resistant to the usual treatments. Drs Unemo and Ohnishi found that a previously unknown strain of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium that causes gonorrhea, was unaffected by cephalosporin-class antibiotics, the drugs commonly used to treat the sexually transmitted disease. They have labelled it the H041 strain.

Dr Unemo called the discovery 'both alarming and predictable'. Neisseria gonorrhoeae is what is known as a 'smart bacteria', due to its apparent ability to evolve over periods as short as 10-15 years. The doctor continued: 'Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for gonorrhoea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs introduced to control it.'

'Japan has historically been the place for the first emergence and global spread of different types of resistance in gonorrhea,' added Unemo, and indeed, there are legitimate fears about the rate at which H041 might have spread. He admitted that, should the strain break out, 'we don’t know what should be the recommended treatment.' Experts say that condom use in Japan is falling rapidly, now at a third of the annual rate recorded a decade ago, with HIV and AIDS patients in the country now at a record high.

Gonorrhea, nicknamed The Clap, is one of the most common STDs and can be contracted through contact with the mouth, vagina, penis, or anus. Symptoms in males include burning sensations while urinating, white, yellow or green pus from the penis, a red and swollen urethra and swollen testicles. Women may experience burning sensations while urinating, vaginal discharge, pain during intercourse and pain in the lower abdomen. Left untreated, complications include scarring of the sexual tracts, sterility, heart-valve infection, kidney failure and meningitis.

Play safe, now, won't you?

By Jon Wilks
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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