LONDON - Drug-resistant strains of gonorrhoea have spread to countries across the world, the UN health agency said on Wednesday, and millions of patients may run out of treatment options unless doctors catch and treat cases earlier.
Scientists reported last year finding a "superbug" gonorrhoea strain in Japan that is resistant to all recommended antibiotics and warned then that it could transform a once easily treatable infection into a global health threat.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said those fears are now reality, with many more countries around the world, including Australia, France, Norway, Sweden and Britain, reporting cases of the sexually transmitted disease resistant to cephalosporin antibiotics - normally the last option for drugs against gonorrhoea.
"Gonorrhoea is becoming a major public health challenge," said Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, from the WHO's department of reproductive health and research.
"We are very concerned about recent reports of treatment failure from the last effective treatment option - the class of cephalosporin antibiotics," she added. "If gonococcal infections become untreatable, the health implications are significant."