CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists say gonorrhea is showing an increased resistance to the antibiotics used to treat it – but researchers at Oregon State University are optimistic, saying their breakthrough discovery of proteins in the bacteria causing the disease could find new treatment options.
Aleksandra Sikora, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy says gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States. There are more than 60 million cases of gonorrhea treated around the world annually, and Sikora says the venereal disease is developing a resistance to every new antibiotic that is used to treat it.
“There is no available vaccine, so there is the dire possibility of untreatable gonorrhea,” she said.
Sikora says gonorrhea is still treatable because doctors can prescribe higher doses of currently working drugs. But she fears one day, the way gonorrhea is currently being treated will not work.
“We’re trying to find new ways to treat gonorrhea,” she said.
Researchers say the sexually transmitted disease can cause many infections that do not have symptoms, and that those who have gonorrhea might not realize it until it is too late.
“Particularly for women,” Sikora said. “The risk of asymptomatic infections that can develop into pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.”
Sikora and her team of researchers, including Assistant Professor Ryszard Zielke, have discovered a group of proteins in the bacteria that cause gonorrhea. She says the recent breakthrough could change the way the disease is treated.
“We’re screening for compounds that would kill the bacteria – or would kill gonorrhea,” Sikora said. “We are using natural products to screen for anti-gonorrhea activity. So essentially to identify compounds that would kill the bacteria.”
Moving forward, researchers say they hope to find a drug that can target the proteins and a vaccine that can prevent the disease.
“We’re very excited because I think it opens up many research avenues for many researchers in the gonorrhea field,” Sikora said.
So far, Sikora says researchers have found several promising compounds that could kill the bacteria, but they are still doing research.