In the past 50 years, the widespread use of antimicrobial drugs in treating infections has caused microbes to begin evolving and developing defenses which result in the drug's ineffectiveness to kill them. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of the most drug-resistant infections along with TB and malaria are also becoming harder to treat due to drug resistance. 

Drug-resistant forms of gonorrhea, the 2d most commonly reported disease in America, has started showing up in recent years. NIAID (National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases)is looking at several angles to find out why the bacteria that causes gonorrhea are now becoming resistant and studying new ways to treat and prevent it.

NIAID Research

How to shut down the efflux pump

At Emory University, Dr. William Shafer is scrutinizing the structure (efflux pump) that evolved in several types of bacteria which pumped the antimicrobial compounds out of the bacterium cell before they can do it any harm. This research can lead to the development of new drugs or treatments that inhibit the pump.

Do genes play a part?

NIAID researchers, as well as studying structure, are also looking at the genetics of the bacteria. Their microbial Genome Sequencing Centers recently were working with investigators to sequence the genomes of several strains of N. gonorrhoeae; which allows researchers to compare the genomes of resistant strains and strains that are sensitive to possibly figure out the genetic basis of resistance. So far a total of 14 sequences have been sequenced.

New treatment options

Since the rise of resistance to treatments it is extremely important that more than one treatment be available to treat these infections like gonorrhea. NIAID is studying different ways to treat resistant gonorrhea with a combination of existing antibiotics. They also provide qualified researchers with resources to test novel and existing therapeutic treatments in a mouse model of gonorrhea infections. This will help scientist to collect preliminary data to see if there is a way to prevent n gonorrhea infection. Until we come up with new ways to treat or prevent these types of infections like gonorrhea the CDC recommends that they are treated with a combination of drugs.

Identifying target strains for vaccines

Since a safe and effective vaccine would help calm the urgent need for new ways to treat gonorrhea Dr. Cynthia Cornelissen, an NIAID-funded investigator from the Common Wealth of Virginia University is working on that goal and is currently studying two proteins as possible vaccine targets. These two proteins which are squeezed out by all strains of gonorrhea help utilize iron. If after further analysis these two proteins are found to be vital to the survival of n gonorrhea, they may be identified as valuable vaccine targets. This type of vaccine that would knock out these proteins and prevent it from further developing would be a huge step toward not only treating gonorrhea but also other antimicrobial resistance fields.  This could be a major breakthrough on the road to stopping the spread of many diseases and infections that have become resistant to so many antibiotics.