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Published: Sunday, 7/1/2012


Intimate infection

Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, no longer carries the terror it once did. Maybe it should.

In the past decade, some strains of the bacterial infection began showing resistance to two of the most effective antibiotics developed to combat them. These strains were found in Japan and Sweden, but their discovery is still worrisome because of the pervasiveness of global travel and the relative ease with which gonorrhea can pass to uninfected persons.

In the United States, 700,000 people a year contract gonorrhea. The disease generally isn't fatal, but it makes life miserable. Symptoms include burning urination, a skin rash, or abdominal pain.

The infection can lead to infertility in men and women, complications in pregnancy and, occasionally, maternal death. It also can increase a person's chance of contracting other diseases, such as HIV.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sees more signs of resistance to the disease in the United States, but no official outbreak. The United Nations' World Health Organization urges doctors to be on the lookout, while scientists race to develop a new antibiotic.

Meanwhile, sexually active people must consider that intimacy requires responsibility and a level of precaution, beginning with proper condom use, that may be at odds with freewheeling notions of romance.

Gonorrhea is treatable, but if the resistant strain hits the United States, it will take this nasty affliction to a whole new level. Now more than ever before, Americans need to practice safe sex.

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