Gonorrhoea is heading towards becoming an untreatable disease with the proportion of strains resistant to antibiotics doubling in almost a year, a European surveillance body is warning.
The number of countries which reported resistant strains also more than doubled. The disease is the most common sexually transmitted infection in Europe after chlamydia.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control surveillance report, Sexually transmitted infections in Europe 1990–2010, says there were more than 32,000 gonorrhoea cases in Europe during 2010.
The centre's figures show a sharp rise – from 4% to 9% between 2009 and 2010 – in cases of resistance to the main antibiotic (cefixime) used to treat gonorrhoea. In 2009 resistant strains were found in ten countries; in 2010 they were found in 17.
"This indicates the risk that gonorrhoea may become an untreatable disease in the near future," said Marc Sprenger, director of the ECDC.
“Public health experts and clinicians need to be aware of the current critical situation and should be vigilant for treatment failures.
“Only continued surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in gonococci will inform existing and future treatment guidelines adequately in order to ensure that patients are treated with effective drugs and morbidity is reduced in infected patients.”