The strain was found in a sex trade worker in Japan.
“This discovery is both alarming and expected,” Unemo, who works at the National Reference Laboratory in Örebro, in central Sweden, told news agency AFP.
Gonorrhea, one of the most commonly circulating STD’s, shows up without symptoms in roughly 50 percent of female cases, whilst generally being very painful for infected men. Left untreated, it can cause sterility, or at worst, can even lead to life-threatening complications.
Up until now the STD has been fairly easy to treat with penicillin, but worried scientists are concerned that this is about to change.
“If it spreads now, we don’t know what should be the recommended treatment,” said Unemo to Canadian newspaper The Vancouver Sun.
The Swedish researcher warns of a “future era of untreatable gonorrhea”, dubbing this a major threat to public health.
It is uncertain how far the strain, which has so far been isolated in one sex worker, can have spread so far, but a global response plan from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is in the works, confirms Unemo.
“The issue of coming up with a global response plan is a huge challenge for the future,” he said to The Vancouver Sun.
WHO’s plan will involve monitoring the spread of the new disease, preventing infection, development of alternative treatment options and an effective drug – and, ideally, a vaccine.