Public Health England has issued a reminder to the public to practise safe sex with new or casual partners, as figures indicate an increase in antibiotic resistant cases of gonorrhoea is continuing.
PHE said it was continuing to monitor and investigate gonorrhoea cases that are highly resistant to azithromycin.
“It is important that clinicians treating patients with gonorrhoea follow the national guidance”
Cases first emerged in the North in November 2014 and since September 2015 further cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands and in the South.
The total number of cases confirmed in England between November 2014 and April 2016 was 34, according to PHE.
Of these, 11 cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands and in the South, five of which were in London.
Cases to date have been confirmed in both heterosexual men and women and in men who have sex with men.
The current outbreak strain remains sensitive to the other first line drug ceftriaxone. However, if azithromycin becomes ineffective, PHE warned there would be no “second lock” to prevent or delay the emergence of ceftriaxone resistance, meaning gonorrhoea could become untreatable.
Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the sexually transmitted infections at PHE, said: “We know that the bacterium that causes gonorrhoea can rapidly develop resistance to other antibiotics that are used for treatment, so we cannot afford to be complacent.
“If strains of gonorrhoea emerge that are resistant to both azithromycin and ceftriaxone treatment options would be limited as there is currently no new antibiotic available to treat the infection,” she said.
“PHE will continue to monitor, and act on, the spread of antimicrobial resistance and potential gonorrhoea treatment failures, to make sure they are identified and managed promptly. It is important that clinicians treating patients with gonorrhoea follow the national guidance,” she added.