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New CDC Report Terms Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea an “Urgent Threat”

Report prioritizes resistant threats by level of concern for the first time, continues to show the need for increased public health investment
Release Date: 
Monday, September 16, 2013

For Immediate Release
September 16, 2013

Stephanie S. Arnold Pang
National Coalition of STD Directors
(202) 689-5700

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013,a new report that outlines the current state of antibiotic resistance for the pathogens having the greatest impact on human life and health.  For the first time, the CDC has outlined all critical drug-resistant threats and also prioritized bacteria into three categories by level of concern: urgent, serious, and concerning.  Not only is drug-resistant Neisseira gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes gonorrhea, included in this report, but it is prioritized as an “urgent threat,” the highest threat level included in this report.

“By highlighting gonorrhea as one of the most critical drug resistant threats, this report continues to sound the clarion call that NCSD, its member health departments, and the CDC have been raising for many years now— that gonorrhea has shown a remarkable ability to develop resistance quickly to all of our existing families of antibiotics.  It is clear we need investments in the creation of new drugs and more advanced tests immediately,” stated William Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).  “In addition, this report highlights, once again, how the current public health infrastructure has been continually strained by antibiotic resistance and is currently unable to prepare as necessary for the arrival of untreatable gonorrhea.  We continue to need additional investments in public health to be prepared for an untreatable gonorrhea epidemic,” continued Smith.

Earlier this year, NCSD released an Emergency Funding Request for Multi-Drug Resistant Gonorrhea to ensure those on the front-line of public health have the resources they need to respond to the likelihood of drug-resistant gonorrhea.  Investments made now can help us better understand where resistant gonorrhea will likely strike and allow us to respond when it does to minimize its effect.  Additional funding like what is included in this request is desperately needed to ensure that when untreatable gonorrhea occurs in the United States, we will be prepared to respond.  

Outlined in this new CDC report are also the minimum estimates of the impact of certain antibiotic-infections.  As expected, drug-resistant Neisseira gonorrhoeae has among the highest morbidity of critical antibiotic-resistant infections, with an estimated 250,000 annual drug-resistant cases.  According to this report, if drug-resistant gonorrhea becomes widespread, public health impact during a 10-year period is estimated to be 75,000 additional cases of pelvic inflammatory disease (a major cause of infertility), 15,000 cases of epididymitis, and hundreds of additional HIV cases.  The direct medical costs are estimated to be $235 million.  This report states, however, that “additional costs are anticipated to be incurred as a result of increased susceptibility monitoring, provider education, case management, and the need for additional courses of antibiotics and follow-up.” 

“So while some would say that we cannot afford additional investments in gonorrhea prevention now, this report, again, makes one thing clear: we can invest $54 million dollars now in our STD public health infrastructure to better prepare those on the front lines of drug-resistant gonorrhea, or we can pay hundreds of millions of dollars later when drug-resistant gonorrhea is widespread,” noted Smith in highlighting the emergency request NCSD made to Congress last April.

Additionally, NCSD is calling on its industry partners who develop testing technologies for gonorrhea to bring to market rapid molecular antimicrobial susceptibility testing, similar to what is currently available with tuberculosis, to help health care providers more immediately identify resistance, potentially provide tailored and appropriate treatment regimens, and provide better surveillance for public health in monitoring the national situation.

Beyond its “Emergency Funding Request for Multi-Drug Resistant Gonorrhea,” NCSD has been raising the alarm against drug resistant pathogens on many fronts.  NCSD supported the passage of the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) Act, which passed as part of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) legislation in 2012.  The GAIN Act creates incentives to encourage the development of products to treat, prevent, detect and diagnose antibiotic-resistant infections, which could help address the growing resistance of gonorrhea to antimicrobials.  To be eligible for these incentives, a drug must be used to treat diseases caused by antibiotic- or antifungal-resistant pathogens (including new or emerging pathogens), or be part of a “qualifying pathogens” list maintained by the FDA.   In December of 2012, NCSD’s Executive Director William Smith testified in front of an FDA panel to encourage the addition of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, to this pathogen list.


The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is a partnership of public health professionals dedicated to promoting sexual health through the prevention of STDs. NCSD provides dynamic leadership that strengthens STD Programs by advocating for effective policies, strategies, and sufficient resources by increasing awareness of the medical and social impacts of STDs.
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