An Austrian man caught a new strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to common treatments.
He had unprotected sex with a sex worker in Cambodia, scientists said.
If such strains keeping spreading, many gonorrhea cases might become untreatable, they added.
An Austrian man who had sex abroad caught a new strain of "super gonorrhea" that is resistant to most antibiotics commonly used to treat the infection, scientists have said.
This is the second time a "super gonorrhea" strain has been detected. Another was found in 2018 in multiple countries. The term "super gonorrhea" refers to a bug that has a high level of resistance to recommended treatments, according to the World Health Organization.
If multidrug-resistant strains of gonorrhea keep spreading, many cases of the STD might become untreatable, according to the authors of a case report published on Thursday in the medical journal Eurosurveillance, which is published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Most cases of gonorrhea don't produce symptoms but can cause serious complications, such as infertility, if it is not possible to treat the infection. Symptoms include discharge and pain when a person pees and painful testicles or irregular vaginal bleeding.
The man experienced pain days after having unprotected sex
The unidentified man in his 50s had condomless sex with a female sex worker in Cambodia in April, according to the case report. Five days later, he experienced pain while peeing and had discharge coming out of his penis, it said.
A swab showed the strain he caught was highly resistant to azithromycin, which is typically one of the first antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea, and resistant to other antibiotics, including: ceftriaxone, cefixime, cefotaxime, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline.
Gonorrhea treatment varies from country to country but tends to start with a combination of azithromycin and ceftriaxone. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends ceftriaxone as a single antibiotic for most gonorrhea cases in the first instance.
The man was initially treated with azithromycin and ceftriaxone. Two weeks later, his symptoms resolved, but a penile swab showed he still had gonorrhea. Tests showed his "super" bug was still susceptible to treatment with an antibiotic containing penicillin called co-amoxiclav. The drug appeared to treat the gonorrhea, the scientists said.
The case-report authors said "promisingly," the man's swab results suggested two experimental drugs called lefamulin and zoliflodacin would also likely to work against the strain. These two medicines are being tested in a late-stage clinical trial, they added.
Using condoms is one of the main ways to avoid catching gonorrhea
Gonorrhea, caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is one of the most commonly reported sexually transmitted infections in the US, with more than 1.5 million Americans catching it each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.
The CDC says on its website that using condoms during sex and having monogamous sex with an uninfected person are the only ways to cut the risk of contracting any strain of gonorrhea.
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