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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UIC: New Global Health Research Examines Antibiotic Resistance in Gonorrhea in Kenya

Across the globe, rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise, including gonorrhea.  At the same time, the antibiotics usually used to treat gonorrhea are decreasing in effectiveness due to multidrug resistance.

Dr. Supriya Mehta, interim dean of global health and associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health, is leading a project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense Global Emerging Infections Surveillance program to study antibiotic resistance in gonorrhea in people living in Kisumu, the third-largest city in Kenya.

“This is a global problem, and the challenge is you can’t take results from one area and copy them over to another area,” Dr. Mehta said. “Many countries have treatment guidelines for gonorrhea, but they need to be specific to local epidemiology and local microbiology.”

In Kisumu, from 2000 to 2010, resistance to ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone drug that was commonly used to treat gonorrhea, grew from zero percent of gonorrhea samples to 50 percent of gonorrhea samples. In 2015, the Kenyan government updated guidelines for antibiotic therapy for gonorrhea, to switch from fluoroquinolones to cephalosporins, and Dr. Mehta’s research was part of this decision-making.  In research Dr. Mehta led and published in 2020 in the International Journal of STD and AIDS, new study found that 100 percent of gonorrhea samples were resistant to fluoroquinolones. Additionally, 100 percent of gonorrhea samples were resistant to penicillin and tetracycline. These data show that resistance is driven by high rates of antibiotic use, not just for gonorrhea but for other types of infections as well.

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