UK Doctors Warned Of Gonorrhea's Increasing Drug Resistance

In the United Kingdom, the Health Protection Agency is warning doctors about the growing drug-resistance of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea to the first-choice drug used to treat it, BBC News reported.

The focus is on the drug cefixime, a type of cephalosporin antibiotic to which the STD has developed resistance. The Health Protection Agency is telling doctors to instead use two other, more powerful antibiotics.

Lab results have shown that 20 percent of gonorrhea samples were resistant to cefixime in 2010, while only 10 percent of samples were resistant in 2009. No samples were resistant to the drug in 2005, BBC News reported.

This isn't the first drug gonorrhea has developed resistance to -- MSNBC reported last year that the STD became resistant to penicillin in the late 1950s, at which point doctors reverted to other antibiotics to treat it.

Gonorrhea then went on to become resistant to drugs including tetracycline, erythromycin and ciprofloxacin, "all drugs which used to kill off gonorrhea like magic bullets," MSNBC reported. Now, cephalosporins -- which cefixime is a type of -- are all that are left.

Earlier this year, scientists discovered a "superbug" strain of gonorrhea -- the H041 strain -- in Japan that is resistant to cephalosporins. The finding was disturbing considering cephalosporins are what the CDC calls the "last line of defense for treating gonorrhea."

TIME reported:

"The potential emergence of gonococcal cephalosporin resistance is of particular concern because the U.S. gonorrhea control strategy relies upon effective antibiotic therapy," the CDC announced Friday. "No other well-studied and effective antibiotic treatment options or combinations currently are available [once the bacteria are resistant to cephalosporins]."

Gonorrhea is extremely common, with more than 700,000 new cases every year in the United States. It is spread sexually, though it can also be transmitted from a mother to her baby during delivery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to chronic pelvic pain and even infertility or ectopic pregnancy, the CDC reported.