Back in the 1100’s, gonorrhea became so prevalent that British Parliament enacted a law to control the epidemic. One hundred years later, Louis IX of France decreed that those with the disease needed to leave the country. The disease continued to be a scourge through the centuries. In the 1700s, healers favored mercury injections as the treatment of choice — which perhaps destroyed gonorrhea — but only in the process of also destroying the brain, lungs, kidneys, and other organs (a medical model still in favor today). So the introduction of antibiotics in the 20th Century was an historic miracle, finally cutting rates of new infections dramatically. Between 1975 and 1996 alone, rates of infection fell by 72 percent.
Alas, antibiotics are hitting the wall as the magic healing modality for gonorrhea, as increasing numbers of cases turn up drug resistant. According to Dr. Henry Masur, president of the Infectious Disease Society of America, “Gonorrhea has now joined the list of other superbugs for which treatment options have become dangerously few.”
In spite of the decline of new gonorrhea infections, at least 800,000 people in the US get gonorrhea annually, with 200 million cases each year worldwide, and with annual costs running over $1 billion. In addition to causing infertility and pain in both sexes, the disease can spread to the blood and joints and potentially cause fatal conditions such as meningitis and endocarditis. Also, gonorrhea makes victims more vulnerable to HIV infection.
Gonorrhea has a long history of developing resistance to drug treatments. In the 1940s, the disease grew resistant to sulfa drugs, then the treatment of choice. Then, by 1990, the disease found its way around penicillin and tetracycline, making those drugs obsolete for treatment. Now it looks like the fluoroquinolones, a class of antibiotics including Cipro, are going down the same path.
At least seven percent of new cases in the US have proven drug resistant, but in some regions, that figure is much higher — with Philadelphia showing 27 percent of new cases resistant to antibiotics, and San Francisco at 22.5 percent, or one in every four cases. The rate of drug-resistant cases has been escalating faster than the national debt, doubling in two years in San Francisco and increasing fivefold in Atlanta during that same time period. Overall, the number of resistant cases has increased 11 fold since 2000. In some Asian countries, resistance already tops 40 percent. In other words, it looks like the efficacy of the existing treatment of choice is not long for this world, and in fact, doctors now are recommending against using it.
There is one other class of antibiotics still effective against gonorrhea, the cephalosporins, but doctors worry that this cure too will also stop working as the virus develops resistance to it, leaving no options.
The director of STD prevention for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. John Douglas, says, “That leaves us with a single class of highly effective antibiotics. We are running out of options to treat this disease…and there are no new drugs for gonorrhea in the drug development pipeline.”
So are there any other mechanisms for containing gonorrhea, save abstinence and condoms, before the disease again catapults to epidemic proportions? The World Health Organization has urged the CDC to invest more in research and development for new treatments, but those treatments center around finding yet one more antibiotic. And the problem with that approach is the antibiotics have such a limited useful life. Sooner or later, bacteria will develop resistance to any antibiotic, as I’ve covered extensively in the past. If the medical establishment would consider the reality that antibiotics will always fail eventually because they are too simple in structure, too easy for bacteria and viruses to mutate around, as opposed to complex natural compounds that are virtually resistance-proof, they might actually come up with a powerful and lasting solution that would stop the explosion of SuperBugs like the antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea now threatening international health.
In the meantime, if you are at risk, the best natural options are grapefruit seed extract, olive leaf extract, garlic, and oil of oregano. But keep in mind, there are no guarantees. Reports of success are not consistent, but they do exist.