Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Kirkcaldy: Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease that, if untreated, can cause severe reproductive health complications. While gonorrhea is very common, it is often symptomless and many may not realize they have it. 333,004 cases were diagnosed in 2013, but more than 820,000 are estimated to occur annually. Because antibiotic resistance has jeopardized treatment for gonorrhea, CDC’s Gonoccocal Isolate Surveillance Project (GISP) monitors antimicrobial susceptibility and tracks patterns of resistance among antibiotics currently used to treat gonorrhea. From 2006-2009, susceptibility to the oral cephalosporin antibiotic cefixime declined in GISP, threatening the effectiveness of this drug. Continued use of cefixime in the face of declining susceptibility could theoretically foster broad resistance to the cephalosporin class (including ceftriaxone, the last treatment option). So in 2012, CDC changed its treatment recommendations to recommend only dual gonorrhea treatment with injectable ceftriaxone plus oral azithromycin.
The most recent data from GISP analyzed urethral gonorrhea samples of men from STD clinics in 34 cities from 2006-2014 and found resistance to cefixime increased in 2014 after two years of dramatic decreases. While CDC’s STD Treatment Guidelines suggest cefixime should only be considered as an alternative treatment for gonorrhea when ceftriaxone is not available, trends of cefixime susceptibility have historically been a precursor to trends in ceftriaxone so it’s important to continue monitoring cefixime to be able to anticipate what might happen with other drugs in the future. GISP data also found that resistance remained stable for ceftriaxone and resistance levels remain highest among men who have sex with men (MSM).
We’re concerned about the increase in resistance for cefixime; however, more years of data are needed to know if the 2014 increase is the beginning of a new trend.