Gonorrhea H041: A “superbug” infection
The H041 strain, a new form of gonorrhea, has been called a “superbug” because it appears to be resistant to existing treatments.
Discovered in Japan in 2011, H041 is also believed to have been detected in Hawaii, California and Norway, and is causing concern among medical professionals in Europe and the United States. However, contrary to messages posted on social media websites, it is not considered to be more virulent or easily transmissible than other strains of gonococcal infection.1
Gonorrhea is generally treated with antibiotics and until now, medical science has been able to adapt treatments to mutations of the bacteria that cause the infection. This is not the case with H041.
According to some specialists, if no action is taken, it could become untreatable by 2015.2 American health authorities have requested $50 million from Congress to fund research for an effective antibiotic treatment.3
While certain specialists fear that this particular strain could trigger septicemia, a generalized infection that can lead to the death of an infected individual within a few days, no fatalities have been reported to date.
In recent years, we have seen a sharp rise in reported cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), due to a decline in safe sex practices such as the use of condoms.
Gonorrhea is the second most common STI in North America and Europe. From 2006 to 2010, the number of reported cases in Quebec increased by 57%, and infections skyrocketed by 84% among youth between 15 and 24 years of age.
Gonorrhea is more common among young men. Symptoms include a burning sensation while urinating, along with a discharge of pus from the urethra and pain in the testicles. In women, symptoms may include bleeding between menstrual periods or during sexual intercourse, pain during sexual intercourse, abdominal pain or an abnormal vaginal discharge. However, when gonorrhea is located on the cervix, in the throat or on the anus, most people have few or no symptoms. As a result, the screening procedure during a medical examination should include these sites.
Gonorrhea increases the risk of transmitting HIV, and if the infection is not treated, it can lead to infertility in men and women, as well as ectopic pregnancy (outside the uterus).
Generally, we recommend that you use a condom during sexual relations, along with regular screening (at least once a year) for any person who is sexually active. Your doctor can help you determine your risk factors and decide how often you should be tested.
1. « L'hyperbactérie du sexe résistante aux antibiotiques » — pourquoi-docteur.nouvelobs.com/L-hyperbacterie-du-sexe-resistante-aux-antibiotiques-2686.html
2. Cathy Ison, from the National Reference Laboratory for Gonorrhoea, Public Health England —http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22263030
3. "New Sex Superbug In Hawaii: Why Is Gonorrhea H041 Said To Be More Dangerous Than AIDS?" — http://www.isciencetimes.com/articles/5085/20130506/new-sex-superbug-hawaii-gonorrhea-h041.htm
Photo : Wikimedia Commons