What is Super Gonorrhea? The Badass, Antibiotic-Resistant Strain Explained

    Updated 03 February 2023 |
    Published 20 April 2020
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant
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    A commonly occurring sexually transmitted infection (STI), gonorrhea has progressively developed antibiotic resistance, giving rise to “super gonorrhea.” Next, Flo shares up-to-date info on this increasingly urgent health concern.

    What is gonorrhea?

    Gonorrhea is an STI affecting both men and women, typically spread through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. It rarely produces noticeable symptoms in those who have it.  

    Unfortunately, gonorrhea can be contracted by a newborn at birth if their mother carries it. Subsequent complications include an eye infection, eye discharge, and a strong sensitivity to bright lights.  

    When diagnosed in adults, gonorrhea tends to attack the rectum, urethra, throat, or cervix. It’s estimated that more than 1.1 million new cases arise every year in the U.S. 

    Abstinence, being in a committed and monogamous relationship, and regularly using condoms seem to be the best methods of prevention for gonorrhea and several other STIs.

    What is antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea?

    Due to its prevalence, gonorrhea gradually began to outsmart almost all antibiotics prescribed to treat it. ARG, or antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea refers to a particular strain that is now virtually immune to the effects of such drugs.

    Previously successful approaches are powerless against this new strain of gonorrhea, dubbed as “super gonorrhea.” At this point, the only tool left in the arsenal against untreatable gonorrhea is cephalosporins.

    With gonorrhea antibiotic resistance on the rise, the infection poses a serious threat to public health. Experts theorize that the problem lies in bacterial mutations, inappropriate use of antibiotics, and the presence of coinfections, among other things.

    Super gonorrhea symptoms

    As mentioned, gonorrhea, as well as resistant gonorrhea, doesn’t necessarily manifest any obvious physical symptoms. When they do appear, it’ll likely be in the genital region, where most infections are contracted. 

    Classic super gonorrhea symptoms present in the following ways:

    • Men observe unexplained penis discharge, discomfort or swelling in the testicles, and painful urination. 
    • Women experience abnormal amounts of vaginal discharge, stinging urination, abdominal pain, and bleeding between periods.

    Drug-resistant gonorrhea has been known to target areas besides the genitals. Rectal ARG leads to intense anal itching and rectal discharge, whereas throat gonorrhea creates general throat soreness and swollen lymph nodes. 

    Should you show any of the above warning signs, it’s critical to get tested right away. Left untreated, STIs like super gonorrhea can do permanent damage.

    Is it incurable gonorrhea?

    Many people mistakenly assume that new strains of gonorrhea are completely incurable. Although ARG is a major reason for concern, scientists strive every day to develop new forms of antibiotics for killing currently untreatable gonorrhea. 

    If you receive an ARG diagnosis, do not panic ‒ but don’t sweep it under the rug, either. Talk to your health care provider about future implications and the various options available to you. 

    The steady rise in new gonorrhea strains equals faster transmission, and the longer super gonorrhea goes untreated, the likelier it is to spread. As such, the importance of wearing condoms every time you engage in sexual activity cannot be overstated. But avoiding sex altogether is, of course, the most reliable method of all. 

    Note that the long-term consequences of ARG include permanent infertility, susceptibility to ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and painful pelvic inflammation. 

    Aside from serious reproductive issues, super gonorrhea has a detrimental impact on the health of your baby. Some children automatically contract ARG due to maternal infection and severe cases may even result in blindness. 

    Lastly, the financial toll of having super gonorrhea is quite significant. It ranks among the costliest of STIs to treat, thanks to its ever-evolving need for brand new drugs. Not surprisingly, drug-resistant gonorrhea is placing an undue burden on health care systems and government agencies worldwide. 

    Prevention of super gonorrhea and ARG

    Taking every available precaution against gonorrhea and super gonorrhea is absolutely vital to controlling the spread of ARG and safeguarding personal health. 

    Have open, candid conversations with your partner (whether it’s in the context of a committed relationship or a casual fling), and always be 100 percent honest. Since sexual monogamy is, hands-down, the best strategy for staying safe, try to avoid having multiple partners. 

    Ideally, you should both get tested at the same time, even if neither of you show any symptoms of gonorrhea or super gonorrhea. A professionally conducted STI screening is the only way to know for sure. Then, the two of you can make the most appropriate choices for your unique situation. 

    When abstinence isn’t an option, protect yourself and others from ARG by using male and/or female condoms every single time, even for oral sex. Furthermore, thoroughly wash sex toys after each use, and never let anyone borrow them. 

    Note that alternative forms of contraception like birth control pills and implants provide absolutely no protection from resistant gonorrhea or other STIs. Only condoms offer a physical barrier between you and a potential infection. 

    Should either of you be diagnosed with gonorrhea, super gonorrhea, or another STI, it’s critical to abstain entirely from sex. Wait until the full course of treatment is over and your health care provider gives you the green light. Resist the temptation to engage in any sexual activity to prevent further transmission and medical complications.


    Ever wondered, “what does ARG stand for?” Well, now you know! Not to be taken lightly, antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is a force to be reckoned with. Super gonorrhea has outsmarted nearly every drug on the market, and experts are struggling to keep up with its evolution.

    Shield yourself and others from untreatable gonorrhea by getting routine STI screenings, being open with your partner, and always wearing a condom.

    If you’re observing symptoms of super gonorrhea, don’t be ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to seek medical help. A qualified health care provider can run the proper tests, and if necessary, review all of the treatment options available to you. 

    History of updates

    Current version (03 February 2023)

    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant

    Published (20 April 2020)

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