updated 4/29/2004 3:34:17 PM ET 2004-04-29T19:34:17

The government recommended Thursday that doctors switch to a different drug to treat gonorrhea among gay and bisexual men.

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The drug Cipro — long the standard treatment for the sexually transmitted disease — no longer should be used as a first-line drug for men who have sex with men, because of the rise of drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea among homosexuals.

Cipro remains the frontline treatment for heterosexuals with gonorrhea, health officials said, because drug-resistant strains are rare in that group. Nearly 80 percent of gonorrhea cases occur in heterosexuals.

Nearly one out of 20 gonorrhea cases among gay and bisexual men are resistant to Cipro. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending antibiotics such as ceftriaxone or cefixime.

Ceftriaxone is less convenient than Cipro tablets because it must be given as a shot. Cefixime is available in liquid form in the United States, but not the pill form, the CDC said.

The CDC warned that drug-resistant strains in heterosexuals are “likely to increase over time and already might be high enough in some areas to warrant new local treatment recommendations.”

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