What Is The Difference Between Gonorrhea And Super Gonorrhea?

It may surprise you to know that one in two sexually active people will contract an STI by the age of 25, according to Planned Parenthood. This startling statistic underscores the importance of safe sex practices and regular STI testing. There are a variety of infections known to be transmitted via sexual contact — some are curable, some are lifelong, and many of them can be seriously uncomfortable. One example is gonorrhea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this infection is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

In 2018 alone, there were 1.8 million recorded infections of gonorrhea, notes the CDC. The condition can affect both men and women, and can be passed on through contact with the mouth, genitals, or anus of an infected person. Symptoms of gonorrhea can include painful bowel movements, discharge from the genitals, and bleeding between periods. If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to serious health problems, including infertility in both men and women. Treatment can be difficult if you develop a more severe form of gonorrhea known as super gonorrhea.

How do gonorrhea and super gonorrhea differ?

Super gonorrhea is sometimes called antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, and as the name suggest, is a type of gonorrhea that is resistant to a number of antibiotics, says the World Health Organization (WHO). The same bacterium causes super gonorrhea as regular gonorrhea, but because of its antibiotic resistance, it's more difficult to treat with medication. 

Antibiotic resistance is a phenomenon that occurs when bacteria or other microorganisms develop the ability to resist the effects of antibiotics that were once effective in killing or stopping the growth of these microorganisms, per Antibiotic Resistance. This can occur when bacteria mutate or acquire genes that enable them to survive exposure to antibiotics, allowing bacteria to develop resistance over time. If you have gonorrhea and you're not responding to the treatment prescribed by your doctor, it is best to let your doctor know as soon as possible to ensure the necessary measures are taken.

How is super gonorrhea treated?

Generally speaking, super gonorrhea can be tricky to treat due to antibiotic resistance, which is a growing public health concern — it can lead to longer hospital stays, higher healthcare costs, and even death, says a 2010 study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Antibiotic-resistant infections can occur in anyone, but they are particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as elderly individuals and those with chronic illnesses, explains the Cleveland Clinic.

Super gonorrhea may require more potent antibiotics or a combination of antibiotics. However, the WHO has reported the infection being resistant to many potent antibiotic types. To help prevent the spread of super gonorrhea and regular gonorrhea, the organization believes in pushing the importance of regular STI screenings. It's also vital to practice safe sex by using condoms. You can also help prevent antibiotic resistance by using antibiotics only when they are needed and as prescribed by a healthcare provider. Lastly, always practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly, to prevent the spread of infections.