New test targets super-gonorrhoea as doctors ‘run out of antibiotics’

Australian doctors have developed a new test for patients with gonorrhoea in a bid to tailor therapy and stop antibiotic resistance to the superbug.

The sexually transmitted infection is becoming increasingly difficult to treat as antibiotic resistance spreads across Australia and the world, according to researcher Associate Professor David Whiley from the University of Queensland.

The gonorrhoea virus is developing resistance to some antibiotics.

Current standard treatment of the infection involves the use of two antibiotics – ceftriaxone and azithromycin – as some strains of gonorrhoea had developed resistance to ciprofloxacin, the  previously used antibiotic, Associate Professor Whiley said.

The new test can detect patients with strains of the infection that can be treated with ciprofloxacin, which can spare the use of stronger drugs by "recycling" an older one.

"We are starting to run out of antibiotics, so we want to make the best use of all available antibiotics," Associate Professor Whiley said.

Up to 70 per cent of gonorrhoea infections could be treated with a single oral dose of ciprofloxacin if the susceptibility status was established early on, he said.

Gonorrhoea, which can sometimes spread without symptoms, affects the genital area, throat or anus and can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if left untreated.

The test, which has been developed by Sydney-based molecular diagnostic provider SpeeDx in collaboration with the University of Queensland, has been submitted to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for approval and has been approved for use in Europe.

It has been designed for health professionals to analyse samples already submitted by patients who present to a doctor or sexual health clinic for diagnosis and treatment.

Associate Professor Whiley, who helped develop the test, said he hoped to influence treatment guidelines so doctors "get used to the idea of tailoring antibiotics".

"This is something we're hoping to change for a broad range of infectious diseases," he said.

"We don't want to go back to a situation where we are using new drugs for every single infection."


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