How Stressed Should We Be About Super Gonorrhea?

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Photo: Dr. Volker Brinkmann/Corbis

Super gonorrhea is back in the news, and outlets are divided on how panicked and/or chastened we should be. First, there were reports that a strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea found in Japan and Europe — the one which attained superpowers by mutating in the infection-hospitable back of the throat — had arrived in the United States. Turns out those were mistaken.

But it will get here sooner or later, and "naturopathologist" Alan Christianson told CNBC that the strain, called HO41, “might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run” because it will "put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days.”

Or will it? "That’s not true,” infectious disease specialist Kent Sepkowitz wrote in the Daily Beast. Sepkowitiz has never seen someone die of gonorrhea, although it has left thousands of women infertile.

Regardless, you should be relieved to hear that the National Coalition of STD Directors asked Congress for $54 million to speed the development of a new gonorrhea antibiotic and start a public awareness campaign. But according to Sepkowitz, “whatever $54 million antibiotic the bolus of cash might produce will itself become useless after a year or a decade." He says antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is as inevitable as death and taxes, which we'll take to mean we should alternate between panicking about it and forgetting it exists.