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Drug-resistant gonorrhoea hits north of England

15 patients have been infected, including 11 in Leeds

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 18 September 2015

The north of England has been hit by an outbreak of highly drug-resistant gonorrhoea, triggering a national alert.

The outbreak of high level azithromycin-resistant gonorrhoea was first detected in Leeds in March 2015 and now appears to have spread to neighbouring areas in the north of England, Public Health England (PHE) says.

Eleven cases have been reported in the Leeds outbreak, and since then a further four cases have been detected in patients from Macclesfield, Oldham and Scunthorpe. Some of the cases have reported partners from other parts of England and all cases have been in heterosexual patients.

Cases of high-level azithromycin resistance have previously been rare and Public Health England 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 Sexually Transmitted Bacteria Reference Unit at Public Health England are currently performing next generation sequencing on the strains to better understand the molecular epidemiology.

In a statement, Public Health England said: “We would like to highlight to clinicians that if a strain of high level azithromycin-resistant gonorrhoea is detected in one of their patients that they should make particularly rigorous efforts to ensure patients are followed up and receive a test of cure (TOC) and that all their partners are contacted, tested and, where necessary, treated and followed up for TOC.

“Clinicians should be especially vigilant to potential treatment failure in their patients and report any cases where this is suspected through the treatment failure reporting form available on the HIV & STI web portal.”

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