Facing the threat of untreatable gonorrhea, today CDC published updated recommendations in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), no longer recommending the oral antibiotic cefixime as a first-line treatment option for gonorrhea in the United States.
This change reflects a shift to the last remaining drug proven effective for gonorrhea treatment, an injectable antibiotic known as ceftriaxone. The most effective treatment for gonorrhea is a combination therapy: ceftriaxone along with one of two other oral antibiotics, either azithromycin or doxycycline.
In the past, gonorrhea has developed resistance to every antibiotic recommended for treatment, leaving the cephalosporins, which include cefixime and ceftriaxone, as the final recommended class of drugs. In light of this history and recent lab data, CDC researchers are concerned that continued use of cefixime may prompt gonorrhea to develop resistance to all cephalosporins. Limiting its use now may help preserve ceftriaxone as a treatment option for a little longer.
While we have not seen treatment failures in the US, history has taught us that now is the time for action. Staying ahead of untreatable gonorrhea will require urgent action from physicians, individuals, the private sector and government organizations.
For more information on gonorrhea and the revised guidelines, please see our press release, fact sheet, or online newsroom.