The WHO is changing up its policy for battling gonorrhea for the first time in more than a decade as antibiotic-resistant strains continue to spread worldwide. The organization now recommends that doctors give up using the class of antibiotics known as quinolones and instead prescribe another class called cephalosporins, reports NPR. The move comes as quinolones become less and less effective in treating gonorrhea, but the WHO change is no long-term fix. One widely used cephalosporin is called ceftriaxone, and already 46 countries have reported strains of gonorrhea that are less susceptible to ceftriaxone than previously, reports Science.
If ceftriaxone stops working entirely, the WHO says doctors should try a combination of older drugs called gentamicin and spectinomycin, but gonorrhea is expected to develop resistance to those drugs rather quickly. "We will have to have new drugs in five years, I think," a WHO researcher says. Gonorrhea infects an estimated 78 million people each year, though infections have climbed 53% from 2012 to 2015 in the UK, where researchers are testing whether oral cases of gonorrhea can be treated with only mouthwash, per the BBC. A recent study suggested that mouthwash decreased the amount of gonorrhea bacteria in male patients’ throats. (Maybe this new type of condom will help.)