Category Archives: Global Health

DON’T PANIC: The world might not be as bad as you might believe!

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Don’t Panic – is a one-hour long documentary produced by Wingspan Productions and broadcasted on BBC on the 7th of November 2013.

The visualizations are based on original graphics and stories by Gapminder and the underlaying data-sources are listed here. Hans presents some results from our UK Ignorance Survey described here.

 

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Tech’s Next Challenge In Global Health: Tools, Not Apps – Forbes

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Earth against the black void of spaceThis month, PATH produced a new tool for diagnosing river blindness, a disease that affects nearly 18 million globally (stats that are often unheard of).  It’s the first of its kind, says Nicole Fallat, Communications Officer at PATH.

via Tech’s Next Challenge In Global Health: Tools, Not Apps.

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How to stop the Ebola epidemic – Paul Farmer

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From People Power Television

As the death toll from the West African Ebola outbreak nears 1,400, two American missionaries who received experimental drugs and top-notch healthcare have been released from the hospital.

We spend the hour with Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer discussing what can be done to stop the epidemic and the need to build local healthcare capacity, not just an emergency response.

“The Ebola outbreak, which is the largest in history that we know about, is merely a reflection of the public health crisis in Africa, and it’s about the lack of staff, stuff and systems that could protect populations, particularly those living in poverty, from outbreaks like this or other public health threats,” says Farmer, who has devoted his life to improving the health of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

He is a professor at Harvard Medical School and currently serves as the special adviser to the United Nations on community-based medicine. He has written several books including, “Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues.”

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NIH to test Ebola vaccine in humans

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From the US National Institutes of Health

Trial will evaluate vaccine’s safety

Initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease will begin next week by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

ebola

The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults.

The pace of human safety testing for experimental Ebola vaccines has been expedited in response to the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

Testing will take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

The others are to launch in the fall. These trials are conducted in healthy adults who are not infected with Ebola virus to determine if the vaccine is safe and induces an adequate immune response. Continue reading

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Health system needs to prepare for global warming

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Climate change is happening, and with that will come more deaths from heat-related illness and disease, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, spearheaded and funded by investor and philanthropist Thomas Steyer, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, examines many of the effects of climate change for business and individuals.

“One of the most striking findings in our analysis is that increasing heat and humidity in some parts of the country could lead to outside conditions that are literally unbearable to humans, who must maintain a skin temperature below 95°F in order to effectively cool down and avoid fatal heat stroke,” the report’s authors wrote.

The average will be miserable. When your sweat can’t evaporate, you have no way to moderate core body temperature, and some people will die.

They use a “Humid Heat Stroke Index” that combines heat and humidity levels to measure how close they come to the point where the body is unable to cool its core temperature. So far the nation has never reached that level, “but if we continue on our current climate path, this will change, with residents in the eastern half of the U.S. experiencing 1 such day a year on average by century’s end and nearly 13 such days per year into the next century.”

al sommer300

Dr. Al Sommer (Photo:Francis Ying/KHN

Dr. Al Sommer, the dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was on the committee that oversaw the development of the report.

He says that often overlooked in the current debate about greenhouse gases and climate change is the effect of global warming on individuals and hospitals. Continue reading

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Americans living longer but less healthy lives, UW-led research finds

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IHME stats

Change in leading cause of death in high-income North America 1990-2010

Americans are living longer lives, but we are living out these longer lives with chronic illnesses in large part due to our lifestyle choices, including eating unhealthy diets, failing to exercise, smoking, and using alcohol and drugs, according to research led by researchers at the University of Washington.

In the analysis, the researchers looked the causes of death and disability in 187 countries around the world. The study was led by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A live webcast will be held tomorrow, March 5 from 9 am to 10:30 am PST, in which Microsoft founder Bill Gates, UW President Michael Young, and and IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray help launch a new suite of online data visualization tools.

The webcast can be viewed at http://www.healthmetricsandevaluation.org/gbd/live.

Researchers from more than 303 institutions and 50 countries contributed to the project, called the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010.

US: a “mixed picture”

Analysis of the US health data revealed a “mixed picture” the researchers said: we are living longer but many of us are not enjoying a healthy old age.

The average life expectancy of American women, for example, increased from 78.6 years in 1990 to 80.5 years in 2010, yet only 69.5 of those 80.5 years were lived in good health.

The picture was the same for American men who in 2010 lived, on average, to be 75.9 years old – up from 71.7 in 1990 – but only 66.2 of those years are healthy.

Most of the illness and death in the US is caused by relatively few conditions. The top causes of death and disability were ischemic heart disease, followed by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low back pain, lung cancer, and major depressive disorders.

The analysis also found that the leading causes of death had changed over the past 20 years. Over those two decades,

  • ischemic heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer remained the top three causes of death;
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infection, and colorectal and breast cancers had moved down;
  • and diseases like diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease moved up.

US: Lagging behind

The study found that the US also lagged behind many wealthy and middle-income countries with Americans living shorter lives — and shorter healthy lives — than the residents of many other nations.

For example, men in 39 other countries – including Greece, Lebanon, and South Korea – live longer, and men in 30 other countries – such as Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Portugal – enjoy more years of good health.

American women fare about the same; in terms of life expectancy they are ranked 36th in the world, and in terms of healthy life expectancy they are ranked 35th, the analysis found.

We are doing so poorly because of our lifestyle choices:

  • The number one culprit: a diet that puts us at risk for such obesity-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Number two: smoking, which leads to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, heart disease and stroke.

To learn more:

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Chronic illness and disability becoming world’s leading health challenges – UW-led study finds

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Globe 125X125By Michael McCarthy

We’re living longer, but many of us are living with chronic illnesses that significantly lower the quality of our lives, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Washington.

The survey, called the Global Burden of Disease Study, finds that there has been a major change in the causes and impact of poor health over the past decades, with a shift away from early death to chronic illnesses and disability.

The survey found that since 1970 life expectancy has increased by 11.1 years for men and 12.1 years for women and that deaths among children under age 5 have plummeted, except in subSaharan Africa where childhood mortality remains high.

In general, improvement in life expectancy has been steady, but it slowed in the 1990s largely due to deaths from HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa and alcohol-related deaths in in easter Europe and central Asia.

With our longer life expectancy, the major burden caused by disease is no longer early death but instead chronic illnesses that cause pain and disability, such as arthritis, diabetes and dementia, and psychological disorders, the study concludes.

Change in the leading cause of deaths from 1990 to 2010

Change in the leading cause of deaths from 1990 to 2010 – Click on image for interactive display.

The study was led by University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We’re finding that very few people are walking around with perfect health and that, as people age, they accumulate health conditions,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME and one of the founders of the Global Burden of Disease.

“At an individual level, this means we should recalibrate what life will be like for us in our 70s and 80s. It also has profound implications for health systems as they set priorities,” Murray said.

Dr. Paul Ramsey, chief executive officer of UW Medicine and dean of the University of Washington School of Medicine, said the study will serve as “a management tool for ministers of health and leaders of health systems to prepare for the specific health challenges coming their way.”

“At a time when world economies are struggling, it is crucial for health systems and global health funders to know where best to allocate resources,” Dr. Ramsey said.

The study found that while heart disease and stroke remained the two greatest causes of death between 1990 and 2010, all the other rankings in the top 10 causes changed.

Diseases such as diabetes, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease moved up the list, and diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, and tuberculosis moved down, the researchers report.

Explore the changes with this interactive chart.

And while malnutrition used to be a major cause of illness and death, today poor diet and physical inactivity are to blame for soaring rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke the study found.

“We have gone from a world 20 years ago where people weren’t getting enough to eat to a world now where too much food and unhealthy food – even in developing countries – is making us sick,” said Dr. Majid Ezzati, Chair in Global Environmental Health at Imperial College London and one of the study’s lead authors.

The study appears in this week’s issue of the medical journal The Lancet.

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Group Health Cooperative plans layoffs and cuts – Seattle Times

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Group Health Cooperative must cut $250 million over the next 16 months through layoffs, better cost control and some reorganization at the top, Seattle Times health reporter Carol Ostrom reports in today’s issue of the paper.

Ostrom writes:

Group Health, which insures about 600,000 people in Washington and has annual revenues of $3.5 billion, is aiming to climb back up to a 3 percent operating margin, Armstrong said in a Friday memo to staff, first reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal. The memo noted there had been three years of sharp declines in finances.

“This cannot continue,” Armstrong wrote. “We are better than this, and I am not going to let us have another year like this one.”

To learn more read Ostrom’s article: Group Health announces layoffs, cuts.

 

 

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How much do you know about global health? Take the quiz.

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Seattle has become a major center for global health research, activism and philanthropy.

But how much do you know about U.S. global health activities?

For example, how much of the U.S. federal budget is spent on global health?

Which region of the world receives the largest amount of U.S. government funding for global health?

What is the leading cause of death in low-income countries?

The Kaiser Family Foundation has created a quick 10-question, online quiz on global health to test your knowledge.

Take the quiz.

The answers might surprise you..

Other Kaiser quizzes examining HIV/AIDS, Medicare, Health Reform and the Uninsured are also available.

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HIV virons (green) budding from a white cell -- Photo: C. Goldsmith/CDC

Weekend Reading: Best of the web on health online this week

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Every week, KHN reporter Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

Global Post  / PBS NewsHour: Groups Fighting HIV In D.C. Find Lessons In Africa

On a recent day not far from Capitol Hill and the White House, about a dozen HIV outreach workers toting bright yellow duffle bags stuffed with condoms and prevention information stood outside of the Anacostia Metro station. … After a couple of hours, they had handed out hundreds of packs of condoms — and had persuaded 21 people to take an HIV test with an oral swab in a Chevy van parked nearby. “You have to know your status, man. I’d rather be safe than sorry,” said Alvern Harris, 25, as he waited for his results. “What we do is a reflection to the younger generation. If we don’t, they won’t, and that’s another generation’s curse, another generation dying” (John Donnelly and Juliana Schatz, 6/12).

New York Times: Risky Rise Of The Good-Grade Pill

The boy exhaled. Before opening the car door, he recalled recently, he twisted open a capsule of orange powder and arranged it in a neat line on the armrest. He leaned over, closed one nostril and snorted it. Throughout the parking lot, he said, eight of his friends did the same thing. The drug was not cocaine or heroin, but Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that the boy said he and his friends routinely shared to study late into the night, focus during tests and ultimately get the grades worthy of their prestigious high school in an affluent suburb of New York City (Alan Schwarz, 6/9).

New York Times Magazine: How Do You Live Knowing You Might Have An Alzheimer’s Gene?

PET scan of the brain of a person with Alzheimer's disease howing a loss of function in the temporal lobe(M)any of these relatives have come together to be part of a large international study of families who carry an Alzheimer’s gene. The study, known as DIAN (for Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network), involves more than 260 people in the United States, Britain and Australia and includes at least 10 members of Doug and Gary’s family. Since 2008, researchers have been monitoring the brains of subjects who have mutations in any of three genes that cause Alzheimer’s to see how the disease develops before symptoms occur. By early next year, DIAN researchers plan to begin a new phase. Subjects will receive one of three experimental drugs that the researchers hope will slow or stop the disease in people otherwise destined to get it (Gina Kolata, 6/7).

American Medical News: Migrant Farmworkers: Medical Care For An Invisible Population

During the summer, internist Bruce Gould, MD, drives to the farm fields that stretch across Connecticut to see his patients. He arrives at night after the migrant farmworkers have finished harvesting tobacco. He examines them behind barns, at picnic tables or in makeshift exam rooms that consist of a folding massage table and a tarp roof. … The doctor helped establish the University of Connecticut’s mobile Migrant Farm Worker Clinic in 1997 to bring medical care to a severely underserved population. From June through October, medical students and physicians affiliated with the university volunteer at local farms, and try to manage chronic diseases, treat infections and mend injuries [Christine Moyer (6/11) – Photo:  John Nyberg].


This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Premature infant's tiny hand being held

More than one in ten U.S. babies born prematurely

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By Julie Appleby
KHN staff writer

The United States has a higher rate of babies born too early – and therefore at greater risk of death or health problems – than more than 125 other countries, including Rwanda, Uzbekistan, China and Latvia, according to a report out today.

About 12 percent of U.S. babies are born at 37 weeks or less, according to the report, which found a worldwide range of as few as 4.1 percent of babies in Belarus to as many as 18 percent in Malawi. Full term is considered 39 weeks.

Click to view interactive map and charts

While nearly two thirds of all pre-term births worldwide occur in Sub-Saharan African and Asia, the U.S. rate shows that “this is not just a developing country issue,” says Chris Howson, vice president for global programs at the March of Dimes.

His organization, along with the World Health Organization, Save the Children and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, produced the report. It says about one million pre-term babies worldwide die shortly after birth, while others can suffer lifelong health problems.

Born Too Soon is a joint effort of almost 50 organizations, including the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children’s.

“This report sounds the alarm that prematurity is an enormous global health problem that urgently demands more research and resources,” said Craig Rubens, MD, PhD, executive director of GAPPS and contributor to the report.

“Even if every known intervention was implemented around the world, we would still see 13.8 million preterm births each year; we could only prevent 8 percent,” he said.

Maternal risk factors include being under- or over-weight, having diabetes or high blood pressure, smoking, being younger than 17 or over age 40.

Rates within countries can vary widely. In the U.S., for example, the pre-term birth rate for white women in 2009 was 10.9 percent, compared with 17.5 percent for African American women, the report says.

In the U.S. and some other developed countries, pre-term births are also linked with a higher use of fertility drugs, which are associated with mothers carrying twins, triplets or more, increasing the chance of early labor. Some births in the U.S. are also induced early, either because the mother is having health problems or for the convenience of the doctor or mother.

Because pre-term births are costly and dangerous, physician groups, organizations like the March of Dimes and even some employers have ongoing efforts to discourage women and their doctors from scheduling births before 39 weeks, unless there is a health reason to do so. The Obama administration launched a $40 million program in February aimed at reducing the number of premature births, especially elective deliveries.

Those elective early births are also the subject of a March of Dimes education campaign, which says even though the absolute numbers are small, the risk of death for babies born just one to two weeks early is twice as high as for those born at 39 weeks.

Howson says the groups that signed on to the report have made a variety of suggestions for lowering the rate worldwide, ranging from inexpensive injections that can be given to mothers in preterm labor to help develop fetal lungs to encouraging women to have health exams before they get pregnant to check for risk factors.

“A preterm baby indicates a failure in the system,” he says.

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This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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John Wecker

Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute appoints John Wecker president and CEO.

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John Wecker

Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute (PNDRI) announced today that John Wecker, PhD has been appointed president and CEO.

Dr. Wecker was most recently Global Program Leader, Vaccine Access and Delivery at PATH.

PNDRI is an independent non-profit biomedical and clinical research center that focuses on eliminating diabetes and its complications.

The Institute, which has a team of 85 physicians, scientists and technical staff, was founded in Seattle in 1956 by Dr. William Hutchinson, Sr., who also founded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Before he joined PATH, Dr. Wecker worked for Boehringer Ingelheim, a global pharmaceutical company, where he led pharmaceutical product development teams and championed the company’s efforts to expand access to treatments for HIV/AIDS in the developing world.

During this time he established a program to provide medication for the prevention of mother-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, free of charge to over 120 countries around the world.

Dr. Wecker received his doctorate in Biological Psychology from the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.

Dr. Wecker succeeds Dr. Jack Faris, who has been serving as acting CEO during the past eighteen months. Dr. Faris will remain part of the PNDRI team as a strategic advisor.

Dr. Wecker will begin at PNDRI on April 23rd.

To learn more:

  • For more information about PNDRI, visit www.pndri.org or call (206) 726-1200.


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Dr. Larry Corey

Hutchinson Center President Larry Corey Elected American Academy of Art and Sciences Fellow

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Dr. Larry Corey

Dr. Larry Corey, M.D., president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Academy is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies and independent policy-research centers.

The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Dr. Corey has led the Hutchinson Center since January 2011 and has held other leadership positions there since 1996, first as head of infectious disease sciences in the Clinical Research Division and later as senior vice president and co-director of the Center’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division.

Dr. Corey is an expert in virology, immunology and vaccine development. His research has focused on herpes viruses, HIV and other viral infections, particularly those associated with cancer.

He also is principal investigator of the Hutchinson Center-based HIV Vaccine Trials Network, an international collaboration of scientists and institutions that combines clinical trials and laboratory-based studies to accelerate the development of HIV vaccines.

Dr. Corey is a professor of laboratory medicine and medicine, adjunct professor of pediatrics and microbiology, and holder of the Lawrence Corey Endowed Chair in Medical Virology at the University of Washington. He is also an infectious disease physician at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Dr. Corey is the Hutchinson Center’s second president to be elected to the Academy. Yeast geneticist Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., a 2001 Nobel laureate, was elected in 1998. He led the Center from 1997 until 2010.

Corey is among 220 leaders in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, arts, business and public affairs who have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 2012 class of fellows.

Since its founding in 1780, the Academy fellows have included: George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth.

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony Oct. 6 at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

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PATH names Steve Davis president and CEO

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Davis

Seattle’s global health organization PATH announced today that Steve Davis has been appointed president and CEO.

In his new position Davis will oversee PATH’s annual budget of $305 million, a staff of nearly 1,200, and a portfolio of projects based in PATH offices in 22 countries.

PATH projects include the development of an affordable meningitis vaccine, improved screening and treatment for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and low-cost filters for safe drinking water.

Davis comes to PATH  from McKinsey & Company, where he was global director of social innovation.

In that position, Davis led a global team that consults for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), governments, and the private sector, with a focus on global health and development, research and development, and Asia and Africa.

Previously, Davis was a long-term CEO of Corbis, a global digital media leader, and served as interim CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute, a nonprofit biotech working on vaccines, diagnostics, and drug discovery for infectious diseases of poverty.

His previous experiences also include serving as interim director of PATH’s India program, practicing law with K&L Gates, and working on refugee and human rights issues.

Mr. Davis earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, his master’s degree from the University of Washington, and his juris doctor from Columbia University.

Davis will join PATH on June 11 and be based at PATH’s Seattle headquarters.

He succeeds former president and CEO Dr. Christopher J. Elias, who led PATH through significant growth for ten years.

Dr. Elias left PATH in January to become president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Gonorrhea bacteria - Photo CDC

New drugs needed to combat drug-resistant gonorrhea, warn scientists

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Some cases of gonorrhea in the U.S. may soon be incurable unless new drugs can be found to combat emerging strains that are resistant to existing “last line of defense” antibiotics, scientists warn in an article in this week’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

“It is time to sound the alarm,” said Dr. Judy Wasserheit, vice chair of the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington, who wrote the article with Dr. Gail Bolan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. P. Frederick Sparling of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill.

Gonorrhea bacteria - Photo CDC

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can infect the genital tract, throat and anus.

There are more than 600,000 cases of gonorrhea a year in the U.S., making it one of the most common reportable infections in the country.

Untreated, gonorrhea can cause a number of serous complications, including infertility, a chronic painful pelvic condition in women called pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancy, a serious complication in which the fetus develops in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.

In rare cases, the bacteria can travel through the bloodstream and infect joints, heart valves and the brain.

The bacteria that causes gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has a history of quickly acquiring the ability to resist antibiotics. In the 1940s it became resistant to sulfa drugs, in the 1980s to penicillins and tetracyclines, and by 2007 to flouroquinolones.

Today, treatment with a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins is considered the most reliable option, but resistance to this class of drugs is on the rise both abroad and in the U.S., raising concerns that doctors here will soon begin seeing cases they cannot cure.

Untreatable cases have not yet been reported in the U.S., but they have appeared in Asia and Europe and a worrying number of strains in the U.S. are showing signs of resistance to cephalosporins.

Resistance to one of the cephalosporins has risen 17-fold in the U.S. over the past few years, Dr. Wasserheit and her colleagues write, increasing from just 0.1 percent of cases in 2006 to 1.7 percent in the first part of last year.

Resistance has been increasing even faster in the western U.S., reaching 3.6 percent of all cases last year and 4.7 percent of cases among men who have sex with men.

Although higher doses may overcome the ability of these strains to resist cephalosporins for a time, Dr. Wasserheit and her colleagues write, urgent action is needed now to prevent the spread of these strains and to develop new treatments.

“There is much to do, and the threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly,” they conclude.

 To learn more:

  • Visit the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus information page on gonorrhea.
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