Drug-resistant STI keeps health organizations on watch

Drug-resistant STI keeps health organizations on watch

October 24
00:22 2012

H. Drew Blackburn / Staff Writer

The second most common communicable disease in the U.S. is rearing its ugly head in a new, drug-resistant form and giving medical providers around the world cause for concern, according to the World Health Organization.

The agency’s warning about gonorrhea, a sometimes symptomless sexually transmitted infection that can render women infertile if left untreated, was issued this summer after research found that cases in which the disease resisted commonly used antibiotics were on the rise, according to the statement.

“Gonorrhea is becoming a major public health challenge, due to the high incidence of infections accompanied by dwindling treatment options,” said Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the WHO in the statement.

The WHO is promoting increased vigilance and research on antibiotic-resistant forms of the disease to find a cure.

Noelle McIntyre, coordinator for the Meadows Center of Health, encouraged students to be cautious.

“We’re going to find, unfortunately, more and more STIs out there that become resistant,” McIntyre said. “I can even think of resistant strains of cold and flu that this is happening to. So this is a reality that we’re going to have to face.”

Texas residents between the ages of 15 and 24 account for about 61 percent of gonorrhea cases in the state, according to the Texas Department of Health.

Herschel Voorhees, director of clinical services at the Student Health and Wellness Center, said he recalled first hearing about cases of drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea occurring in other countries in the early 2000s.

“It has also spread to the United States,” to the degree that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend the use of the “particular class of antibiotics” that formerly was used to treat gonorrhea, he said.

The CDC’s website reports that no cases of the drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea have been found in the U.S., but cautions that “the threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly.”

Voorhees said that he checks the CDC’s website, cdc.gov, at least once a week to see if any new prevention or treatment guidelines have been released. He said the guidelines were recently updated in August.

Before the guidelines were updated, Voorhees said the Health and Wellness Center treated patients with gonorrhea with an oral dosage. The center now gives patients a shot in the hip and has added new oral antibiotics to the treatment.

To help prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections, the Health and Wellness Center offers students Mean Green Screens, which are free, confidential HIV screenings.

“We do two Mean Green Screens on the first and third Thursday of every month,” said Kerry Stanhope, assistant director of outreach at the center.

Stanhope said that about 80 percent of people diagnosed with STIs show no symptoms, and stressed the importance of being tested.
English education sophomore Greg Elliot agreed that being tested was critical for students’ health and safety.

“It’s important because you have a risk,” Elliot said. “Everybody needs to make sure they’re responsible.”

The Health and Wellness Center offers an STI test that checks for gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and chlamydia for $61. Students can also join the center’s “Condom Club” for access to free condoms.

The CDC also promotes safe sex and regular testing.

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