Responding to a surge in tough-to-treat gonorrhea, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped recommending a group of related antibiotics for the disease. Now, only one class of antibiotic—called cephalosporins—remains on the CDC's list of treatments for the second-most-common sexually transmitted disease in the United States.
"This is a bad bugs–no drugs issue," says Henry Masur, president of the Alexandria, Va.–based Infectious Diseases Society of America.
An estimated 1.4 million people in the United States contract gonorrhea each year, according to Masur's group. Left untreated, the disease can cause infertility in both men and women and can spread to the blood or joints where, in rare cases, it's fatal.
When the powerful antibiotic ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and its relatives were initially used, a single dose generally wiped out the infection. But in the 1990s, the CDC noted the emergence in Asia of ciprofloxacin-resistant