There has been a “slowdown” in the emergence of gonorrhoea infections that are resistant to key antibiotics, Public Health England has said.
The sexually transmitted infection has become much harder to treat in recent years, with some countries regarding it as “untreatable”.
PHE said public health efforts and changes in prescribing were having an effect but warned of a “worrying picture of ongoing gonorrhoea transmission and co-infection”.
Its data shows that for the second year resistance to the antibiotic cefixime in England and Wales has fallen. In 2012, there was around a 50% drop in tests showing “decreased susceptibility” to the drug.
Resistance to azithromycin also only increased from 0.5 to 0.7% of laboratory tests.
But the report said a fifth of cases in 2012 were repeat cases and around four in 10 people had chlamydia as well as gonorrhoea.
Over a quarter of people with gonorrhoea also had HIV, reaching 40% among men who have sex with men.
Total new gonorrhoea diagnoses in England jumped 21% to 25,525 cases in 2012, previously published figures also showed.
Professor Cathy Ison, who leads the PHE gonorrhoea resistance surveillance programme, said: “Whilst the resistance data are better than expected, they can only represent a temporary reprieve.
“We must continue to be vigilant as multidrug-resistant gonorrhoea strains are being identified across the world and there are limited antibiotics in the pipeline.
“An ongoing focus on prompt gonorrhoea diagnosis, adherence to prescribing guidelines and the effective identification and management of potential treatment failures, is crucial.”
Lisa Power, policy director for the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It’s promising to see public health efforts and new prescribing guidelines beginning to make a dent on emerging gonorrhoea resistance.
“But these are very slight reductions and there’s some way to go.
“Far too many people are still getting gonorrhoea - and they’re often getting it repeatedly.
“It’s therefore vital that local authorities invest in targeted prevention campaigns and accessible testing and treatment services, particularly for gay and bisexual men and young people who are at the highest risk.
“We also want to see a national curriculum that arms young people with the knowledge they need to protect themselves against gonorrhoea and other sexually transmitted infections.
“The best way to beat drug resistance is to stop gonorrhoea being transmitted in the first place. Condoms provide the best protection, but people carrying the infection won’t always be aware they have it and might pass it to others without knowing.
“We would encourage those most at risk to have regular sexual health check-ups.”
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