updated 4/26/2004 11:49:26 AM ET 2004-04-26T15:49:26

Because of growing cases of drug-resistant gonorrhea in major U.S. cities, the government is expected to announce this week that common treatments against the sexually transmitted disease no longer work and other drugs should be used, top experts said Monday.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to announce Thursday new recommendations for treatment of gonorrhea, said spokeswoman Jessica Frickey, but she declined to give details.

Two health officials who worked with the CDC on its new gonorrhea guidelines told The Associated Press that a different antibiotic will be recommended for treatment of the disease.

The class of antibiotics commonly used to treat gonorrhea, including the popular ciprofloxacin, or “Cipro,” no longer are effective, said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, deputy health officer and director of STD Prevention and Control Services for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Resistant strain spreading
Instead, Klausner said, the CDC is expected to recommend the use of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, which is less convenient because it is administered through shots rather than pills. Another recommended drug, cefixime, is in pill form, but is no longer made in the United States.

In recent years, the government has recommended ceftriaxone for treatment of gonorrhea only in Hawaii and California because of the growing number of Cipro-resistant cases in those states.

The resistant gonorrhea has apparently spread eastward across the country. A rash of cases among men in Seattle, Chicago, New York and other areas in recent months prompted the CDC to review its national recommendations for gonorrhea treatment, said Dr. H. Hunter Handsfield, director of the STD Control Program for Public Health-Seattle and King County.

“From San Diego to Maine ... we’ve been watching it creep up since 2000. We had a sense of inevitability,” Klausner said.

Klausner and Handsfield say the new recommendations may present problems for health officials and patients. Cipro, taken orally, was easy for patients to use and commonly found in doctors’ offices. However, with ceftriaxone, patients must get a shot administered by a doctor or nurse, and clinics do not have ample supplies of that drug as they do with Cipro, Klausner said.

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