A sexually transmitted disease that infects millions of people each year is growing resistant to drugs and could soon become untreatable, says the World Health Organization. The UN health agency is urging governments and doctors to step up surveillance of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, a bacterial infection that can cause inflammation, infertility, pregnancy complications and, in extreme cases, lead to maternal death. Babies born to mothers with gonorrhea have a 50% chance of developing eye infections that can result in blindness.
"In a couple of years it will have become resistant to every treatment option we have available now," says a UN scientist. Once considered a scourge of sailors and soldiers, gonorrhea—known colloquially as the clap—became easily treatable with the discovery of penicillin. Now, it is again the second most common sexually transmitted infection after chlamydia. The global health body estimates about 106 million cases annually worldwide.