New research detailing a high level of azithromycin-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae in England shows that antibiotic resistance is a real threat to the health of the nation, says the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).

Responding to a paper in the Lancet, Dr Kieran Hand, spokesperson on antibiotics at the RPS said: "This research shows that antibiotic resistance is not a hypothetical problem but a real and present danger to the health of British people.

“There are almost 50,000 cases of gonorrhoea diagnosed in sexual health clinics in England each year and around half are in young adults aged 15-24 years. Increasing antibiotic resistance in strains of gonorrhoea already mandates treatment with two antibiotics and this research demonstrates that we may be in danger of losing one of those drugs if resistant strains are allowed to spread unchecked.

“A relatively small number of resistant strains were reported, (70 in just over two years) but without the vigilance and co-operation of sexual health clinics, health professional networks and Public Health England, these successful strains could easily become dominant. Untreated gonorrhoea can, in some cases, lead to serious complications including prostatitis, ectopic pregnancy and infertility."

Dr Hand said that prevention of the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections through the use of condoms was the most important message to take away from the research.

"There is also an imperative to incentivise the research and development community – both private and public sectors – to discover new antibiotics to meet the challenge of increasingly-resistant strains of bacteria causing common infections," he said.

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