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Science Friday: Untreatable Gonorrhea Superbug Threatens World Health

Cross posted from my law blog.

Bet you thought you had enough problems to worry about. Well, here is another one.

Kate Kelland of Reuters reports that scientists discovered a superbug strain of gonorrhea in Japan in 2008 that is resistant to all antibiotics that have been used to treat gonorrhea in the past, especially the cephalosporin antibiotics that are normally the last treatment option.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the disease has spread to other countries, including Australia, France, Norway, Sweden and Britain.

Kelland writes,

Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease which, if left untreated, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirths, severe eye infections in babies, and infertility in men and women.

It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world and is most prevalent in south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of cases is estimated at around 700,000 a year.

The clever little pathogen has not only mutated to resist antibiotics, it has mutated to cause less severe symptoms. Doctors used to say if it felt like you were passing razor blades when you urinated, you likely had gonorrhea. That is not true anymore and many people afflicted with the disease do not realize they have it, unless they notice a white discharge in their urine.

The WHO regards this as a very serious health threat.

Prevention is the best cure. Always practice safe sex, unless you are in a long term monogamous relationship and you trust your partner

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.