Lifestyle & Belief

It may be STD from hell, but Gonorrhea HO41 not 'worse than AIDS,' doctors say


Researchers are calling the spread of the antibiotic strain of gonorrhea HO14 an emergency and it could be more powerful than AIDS.


Pieter Bauermeister

Gonorrhea HO41 is dangerous but not worse than AIDS, contrary to a recent report, doctors told LiveScience on Tuesday. 

The antibiotic resistant strain of the sexually-transmitted disease was discovered in Japan two years ago, and now, the "sex superbug," as it is known, has been found in Hawaii.

"This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, told CNBC on Thursday. His comments lead to a rash of alarmist reports, but some doctors disagreed with Christianson's remarks on Tuesday.

"The rate of complications from gonorrhea in terms of systemic problems is so much lower than the rate of complications from untreated AIDS infection," Dr. Bruce Hirsch of New York's North Shore University Hospital told LiveScience.

"At this point in time, AIDS is a fatal infection," as opposed to gonorrhea, which is rarely fatal, according to Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, said LiveScience.

That doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about, however. Both doctors told LiveScience that resistant strains of gonorrhea are a serious threat to world health. Even so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to document a case of gonorrhea that is completely resistant to antibiotics. 

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Meanwhile, the National Coalition of STD Directors has called the situation an emergency and has asked Congress for $54 million in extra funding to develop an antibiotic.

There have been no reported deaths from HO41.

Gonorrhea, also known as "the clap" has been around since known since the Middle Ages.

The bacterial infection causes sores and discharge on the genitals and can lead to medical complications if left untreated such as infertility.