Doctors from the United Kingdom have expressed a huge concern regarding a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhoea spreading across the country. The strain, which popped up last year in Leeds, prompted a national alert and currently makes the disease at risk of becoming untreatable.

Gonorrhoea is transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Left untreated, it could lead to infertility, or could be passed on to a child during pregnancy. Seventy five percent of women and gay men, and also one in ten heterosexual men may have gonorrhoea without noticing it, as symptoms are not easily recognizable.

Azithromycin and ceftriaxone are two antibiotics used in combination to treat gonorrhoea. However, azithromycin resistance is spreading, sending fears to doctors that ceftriaxone may soon be ineffective as well. Doctors note that the rate of transfer of the super gonorrhoea among gay men is the biggest issue.

For sexual health consultant Dr. Peter Greenhouse, doctors are worried that the superbug could spread to men having sex with other men, stating that, “The problem is [they] tend to spread infections a lot faster simply as they change partners more quickly.”

Further, men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of developing the infection in their throats, where other bacteria are present, and can share antibiotic resistance, where only lower doses of antibiotics reach.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern for all types of infections. Many kinds of bacteria are now resistant to the most potent antibiotics due to antibiotics found in meat and over-prescription. Experts emphasize vigilance and the practice of safe sex in addressing super gonorrhoea.

The Public Health of England warned that the rise in number of super gonorrhoea cases is a “further sign of the very real threat of antibiotic resistance to our ability to treat infections.” For Chancellor George Osbourne, antibiotic resistance, if no action will be taken to address this, could become an even greater threat than cancer.

According to Dr. Gwenda Hughes, head of the sexually transmitted infections unit at Public Health England, they could not be complacent as appearance of strains of gonorrhoea that are resistant to azithromycin and ceftriaxone could limit treatment options, considering that there is no other currently available antibiotic that can treat gonorrhoea.

Public Health England is taking steps to locate sexual partners of those who have been diagnosed with super gonorrhoea. While only a little less than half of the reported sexual partners reported successfully followed up with them, only 94 percent of those tested were infected. MIMS