Hold Your Applause, New Clap in Town

Gonorrhea has morphed into neisseria gonorrheae and is resistant to drugs

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Several suggestions are offered to explain why gonorrhea is called "the clap". Two possibilities are French words, which date to the 1500s. Clapoir is a sexual sore and clapier is a brothel.

Gonorrhea has been around for centuries, probably because of its ability to change genetically and overpower new treatments developed to combat it.

An international research team has discovered a new strain of the bacteria called Neisseria gonorrheae, which is resistant to all currently available antibiotic treatments.

"Condoms are your best defense against sexually-transmitted diseases."

Magnus Unemo, M.D., of the Swedish Reference Laboratory, admits to being alarmed by this discovery and anticipating it because gonorrhea has always shown a unique ability to develop a resistance to drugs used to fight it.

While it isn't known if this new strain of gonorrhea is widespread, Dr. Unemo surmises that without a way to combat it, it will quickly spread.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 700,000 new gonorrhea cases each year, which makes it one of the most common STDs in the United States.

Gonorrhea remains asymptomatic in 50 percent of infected women, but only 5 percent of infected men do not exhibit symptoms. Symptoms include burning during urination and puss discharge. When untreated, gonorrhea can lead to serious, irreversible health problems in both men and women.

In women, gonorrhea is also associated with chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancies and infertility. Additionally, its presence increases the risk of HIV transmission. In 4 percent of cases, untreated infections will spread to the skin, blood, joints or heart, which can cause potentially fatal lesions. Babies infected by their mother through the birth canal are at high risk of developing serious joint and blood infections as well as blindness.

This discovery will be presented at the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research in July 2011. Studies are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 8, 2011
Last Updated:
July 13, 2011