New Sex Superbug: Worse Than AIDS Or No Big Deal?

by
Owen Poindexter
An antibiotic strain of gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, is sweeping the nation, or at least the nation's media with headlines like: Sex Superbug 'Could Be Worse Than AIDS' but also: Settle Down: No 'Sex Superbug' In U.S., Despite Reports.

sex superbug, std, superbug, gonorrhea
A dash of sobering reality is needed in reports of a new sex superbug. IMAGE: Public Domain.
 
An antibiotic strain of gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, is sweeping the nation, or at least the nation's media with headlines like: Sex Superbug 'Could Be Worse Than AIDS' but also (from the same parent company): Settle Down: No 'Sex Superbug' In U.S., Despite Reports.
 
Who to believe? Well, that "worse than AIDS" quote is a stretch at best:

"This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," said Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine. "Getting gonorrhea from this strain might put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days. This is very dangerous."

So, by saying the "sex superbug" is "worse than AIDS," Dr. Christianson meant "faster acting." And yes, AIDS is a slow killer, but that's part of what makes it so damaging: it can spread for a long time before it is detected. That's not to diminish the issues of this strain of gonorrhea, but "worse than AIDS" turns out to be more headline fodder than actually meaningful. Also, I'm all for naturopathy, but don't we want to call an epidemiologist for this one?

“The sky is not falling -- yet,” said Dr. Kimberly Workowski, a professor of infectious disease at Emory University in Atlanta. The reason that the sky is still where it's supposed to be (figuratively, anyway) is that the reports of the antibiotic-resistant sex superbug were false. The alleged sex superbug is known clinically as HO41. The diagnosis that caused a stir in Hawaii turned out to be a different breed, H11S8.

So what's with the "yet" at the end of that quote? Epidemiologists are worried about a mutated, antibiotic resistant gonorrhea, and fear that it's arrival could be imminent within a few years. It just hasn't happened yet. For now, sleep easy, America, reports of a sex superbug have been grossly exaggerated.

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