Fighting Against Substance Abuse in Nigeria
Drug trafficking is on the rise in Nigeria, along with criminal groups using the country as a base to move narcotics to neighboring regions. As a consequence of cross-border trafficking, illegal drugs are easily available within the country. A study conducted in 2017 found that cannabis is the drug with the highest rate of prevalence in Nigeria with 6.6 percent of respondents having used it in their lifetime. Though cannabis is the primary drug used in Nigeria, the use of other illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines is increasing.

Dangers of Substance Abuse

Surprisingly, the greatest danger of drug abuse in Nigeria lies with substances that are not illegal. The abuse of alcohol and over-the-counter medications has increased significantly in recent years. Alcohol is the third most abused substance in Nigeria. In 2015, it was reported that an average of 11.3 liters of alcohol was consumed per person per year in Nigeria, which was among the highest levels of consumption for countries with a GDP measured in purchasing power parity of less than $10,000. The second primary type of drug used in Nigeria is opiates. Among the opiates being abused are several prescription drugs such as tramadol and codeine.

Despite the growth in awareness of the rising rate of substance abuse in Nigeria, there is very little data to show the extent of the problem. Studies have shown an increase in the consumption of illegal drugs through data such as arrest records, but capturing the rate of addiction to prescription and over-the-counter medication is much more difficult to ascertain. Not only is there a lack of addiction reporting, but there is also a lack of treatment. A vast majority of Nigerians live in poverty, and access to treatment for addiction is limited across the country.

Prevention and Treatment

New methods for prevention and treatment of substance abuse in Nigeria are underway. In 2013, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) initiated a program that focuses on fighting drug trafficking in Nigeria. Through the fight against criminal activity involved in the sale of illegal substances, the UNODC can reduce the availability of addictive substances in the country. This program also works toward ending addiction by gathering more accurate information on drug use, as well as improving treatment of addiction itself in hospitals and treatment centers.

Following the release of a BBC documentary on substance abuse in Nigeria and the development of addiction, the Nigerian government has instituted a ban on the import and production of a codeine-containing cough syrup, which will reduce the availability of codeine. Because the cough syrup was unregulated, people could buy it from pharmacies without a prescription, giving them easy access to addictive opiates. Other methods the government is using to fight against the growth of addiction include policies and taxes. The Nigerian government has instituted a new “sin” tax, causing tobacco products and alcohol to cost more. Hopefully, an increase in cost will reduce consumption.

With a health crisis that has severely increased in recent years, Nigeria has begun to institute new regulations and programs that will help people who may not have access to treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Policy and program changes will help Nigeria fight substance abuse and improve the lives of those living in poverty or facing stigma for addiction.

Lindabeth Doby

Photo: Flickr

Legalizing Coca Leaf Production
A recent study on the benefits of coca leaf legalization has spurred lobbying efforts in Colombia, with advocates encouraging the country to legalize its production rather than attempting to eradicate the crop. Using coca leaves has been a traditional practice among indigenous South Americans for thousands of years. Before the leaf was harvested and manufactured into cocaine, it was chewed or made into a tea. It provides medicinal and health benefits like treating nausea and can be used for an energy boost.

Before industrialization, when working long days of hard labor, workers—especially some of the underprivileged farmers—would chew coca leaves for the effect of the stimulant but also to satiate hunger pangs while working on an empty stomach. Coca leaves also provide essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins like A, B1, B6, C and E. Chewing and brewing coca leaves is a natural way of taking dietary supplements.

Peru and Bolivia See Benefits from Legalizing Coca Leaf Production

The government of Peru formed the National Coca Company of Peru (ENACO) in 1949, pushing for legalizing coca leaf production in order to make items and medicines derived from coca leaves. Farmers growing leaves for chewing to be sold to ENACO got their land certified for legal growth in 1978. ENACO does not only cultivate legal coca leaves for local traditional uses, but also sells its products around the world. One of the most common uses is as a natural anesthetic for eye surgery; ENACO is one of two companies that produce coca leaves for this medicinal purpose.

Coca production in Bolivia, however, is more recent. Bolivia has the third world’s largest crop of coca leaves (after Columbia and Peru) with about 67,000 acres used for farming. In 2011, the Bolivian Community Coca Company was founded by the government for the legal cultivation and purchase of coca leaves to be made into flour, ointments, and other products. In 2013, the Bolivian government sought to market coca-based toothpaste to the public with the intention of battling the illicit use of the drug. By using the drug for products like toothpaste or flour, there will be more use of coca leaves for legal industrialization and less for illegal drug trafficking.

How the Legal Coca Leaf Could Help Colombia

Legalizing coca leaf production in the long term could benefit Colombia economically, politically and socially. Allowing coca leaf farms could offset expensive anti-drug efforts like crop substitution, where the government buys out farmers of their current crop and looks to replace it with a different, legal product. However, crop substitution is costly and non-sustainable, especially if the demand for cocaine does not change. If the uses for coca leaves remain the same while their cultivation is restricted by the government, it will merely increase the price of the drug and make crime worse.

Bolivia and Peru are examples of the benefits of legalizing coca leaf production. These countries show that the medicinal benefits can be harnessed to create a market that effectively limits the illicit use of the leaves by taking away from the crops that would be used to make cocaine. Opening a legal market for coca leaves to be made into useful items like flour, ointments, toothpaste and other products would help lower the amount of drug trafficking and create new opportunities for coca leaf farmers to sell this indigenous plant.

– David Daniels
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Thailand
The popular Australian mini-series 
Bangkok Hilton, about the arrest of Australians for drug-running in Thailand, is one of a number of media portrayals that feeds into the many stereotypes of Thailand. The media misrepresents Thailand by covering the problems that the country faces instead of the progress the country has made or the fact that Thailand is ranked as one of the world’s best tourist destinations. Negative aspects that the media often sensationalize include sex trafficking, drugs and AIDS.

Fighting Sex Trafficking Through Tourism

Although sex trafficking continues to be a problem within Thailand, the media often covers only the bad and not what the country is doing to fight sex trafficking. Thai authorities and officials have committed themselves to cleaning up the country through advocacy and tourism. “The Thai government alone cannot solve the problem. We need the hotel groups, we need the tourists, we need everybody who can to join in,” said Malina Enlund, a member of the anti-trafficking group A21.

Because of Thailand’s huge tourism sector, making up 19.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, the country has used its tourism to combat sex trafficking. Not only has the country begun training hotel employees and airline staff about how to spot sex trafficking, but the government has even insisted that its airline, Thai Airways, show an in-flight video about sex trafficking to all incoming tourists.

Replacing Opium Poppy Farming With Cash Crop Production

For decades, Thailand has been known as the epicenter of drugs in Southeast Asia. Thailand is developing at a fast pace, the culture is changing and people want a better standard of life. Unfortunately, drug trafficking gives many the economic means to do so.

However, the media misrepresents Thailand as a drug-stricken country with no escape, rather than focusing on what the Thai government has done to address the issue. One effective program instituted under King Bhumibol worked to “replace opium poppy farming with cash crop production.” This program has helped more than 100,000 people transform their drug crop production into “sustainable agricultural activities.” Stanford postdoctoral fellow Darika Saingam stated that the program is [a] win-win because it stymies drug trade and provides economic opportunity while also being ecologically sound.”

The Media Misrepresents Thailand by Ignoring Its Efforts to Combat HIV/AIDS

The media misrepresents Thailand by only reporting when Thailand sees an increase of HIV/AIDS within its population, such as a 2016 report that stated there were an estimated 450,000 Thai people living with HIV. In 2017, the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand launched the National AIDS Strategy, a 13-year plan to end the epidemic, “ensuring an effective, cost-efficient and high-impact HIV response” by 2030. It is evident that the country has listened to the outcry of its people and the international community and is taking action.

Although Thailand faces many problems, an obsession with the negative aspects is how the media is able to misrepresent the country as a whole. Such news reports fail to represent the culture and people of Thailand. Furthermore, it is important to understand that Thailand is taking the appropriate steps to become a safe, flourishing, and integrated country in the world and should be further recognized for its significant development.

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

International Drug Trade
Drug trafficking operates on an international level and involves numerous individuals and groups, or cartels. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, drug trafficking is a “global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances, which are subject to drug prohibition laws.

Drug Trade Touches Many Impoverished Countries in Different Ways

Afghanistan, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, is also one of the largest producers of opium. As violence has taken over the region since the mid-1980s, causing turmoil and rising costs of living, farmers have increasingly turned to growing opium poppies as a more lucrative option than producing food. Heroin is then produced from the opium and internationally trafficked. Trafficking to Europe takes place along the Balkan and northern travel routes from Afghanistan to Russia and western Europe. These two markets combined have an annual value of approximately $33 billion per year. The other top heroin producers in the world are Myanmar and Laos.

Cocaine is primarily produced in South American countries such as Columbia, Bolivia and Peru. The majority of the drugs trafficked from these places end up in the United State and Europe. In 2008, it was estimated that almost 17 million people worldwide were cocaine users, similar to the number of people who abuse opiates on a global scale. North America made up 40 percent of that population and Europe approximately 25 percent.

The magnitude of the problem resulting from the international drug trade for other countries, such as Mexico, is evident when examining the statistics associated with violent crimes related to drug trafficking. In 2011, there were more than 50,000 drug-related murders. That number has climbed to 200,000 drug-related murders since 2006. The competing cartels initiated the violence throughout Mexico and are therefore the predominant cause of economic insecurities and instability throughout the nation.

The issues associated with the drug trade have a ripple effect on those outside the cartels as well, worsening the overall problem. Extreme poverty to the point of not being able to buy food is experienced by about 30 percent of the population in Mexico as a result of drug cartel activity, with an estimated 40 percent facing basic poverty in terms of lack of healthcare and education. Mexican citizens who may otherwise be honest, law-abiding workers may succumb to the temptation of the drug trade, as what may appear to be their only option for survival.

Global Cooperatives Work to Counter International Drug Trade

Moreover, governments abroad are rife with corruption. As such, the stabilization of the economy for the masses is less of a priority than increasing the personal wealth of those benefiting from the illicit drug trade. Accordingly, poverty ensues. To address these concerns, in 2003, the Paris Pact Initiative was enacted into law as a means to combat the global illicit drug trade. The Paris Pact has 58 participating countries and 23 organizations.

The Vienna declaration of 2012 resulted in the development of four pillars designed to work towards finding solutions in the fight against the international drug trade, specific to the illegal trafficking and sale of opiates.  The first pillar is to strengthen already existing regional initiatives. The second pillar is to detect and block financial flows linked to the trafficking of opiates. The third works to prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals used in illicit opiate production. The final pillar is to reduce the abuse of such drugs through a multi-faceted approach. This initiative has been implemented in phases thus far.

The international drug trade is not operating unnoticed by any means. However, the power that the leaders behind the scenes have and the wide user base makes the fight against this type of crime particularly complex. Of greater import, the mobilization of the groups involved and their presence in every corner of the globe creates further difficulties. With that in mind, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime has made great strides in raising awareness and addressing each area of the drug trade that causes problems for the rest of society. The most recent Vienna Declaration of the Paris Pact Initiative is a thoughtfully devised, comprehensive approach to creating a safer world, especially for those already subjected to the harsh realities that poverty as a byproduct of the international drug trade creates.

U.S. Partnerships Important to Continuing Progress

The United States plays a key role in leading other countries to monitor and deter criminal activity related to the sale and trade of illegal substances through the work of the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. As a result of the United States’ partnership with other countries, a collaborative approach is made possible in combatting this significant societal problem because of the sharing of information and resources cross-continentally.

Other aspects that are associated with the illegal trade of illicit substances that involve financial matters, such as money laundering, are addressed by this department as well. An additional benefit of this collaboration of departments throughout the world is that it holds other countries accountable for monitoring illegal activity through their own governments or agencies and thus acts as an incentive to ensuring safety. The bureau also provides assistance to countries that may need extra resources to control criminal activity. Through this ongoing assistance, the world can continue to make progress towards resolving this multi-faceted global issue.

– Bridget Rice
Photo: Flickr

Initiatives Against Drug Cartels in Latin America
Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, says that a global problem requires a global solution. One problem in need of a solution for more than 40 years is drug cartels in Latin America.

The Problem of Drug Cartels in Latin America

Because of drug cartels in Latin America, especially around South America, thousands have been killed in Colombia, Mexico and other areas where cartels are deep-rooted in society. Santos is urging countries to rethink their strategies because the human cost is too high, despite current efforts. The drug business also hurts consumers and the environment as land is deforested in order to plant cocoa, which supplies cocaine.

The largest drug cartels in Mexico — the Zetas and Sinaloa cartels — control most illegal drug trades from South America to the U.S. Usually, cocaine is imported from South America then smuggled to the U.S. Some groups also traffic marijuana and methamphetamines. Cartels are also involved with extorting local businesses, kidnapping for ransom, prostitution rings, intimidation and murder.

There is a shared responsibility among the international community to reduce both supply and demand for drugs. Some substantial initiatives have been employed to combat drug cartels in Latin America by Mexico, Guatemala and the European Union.

Cutting Drug Demand with Social Programs

Pena Nieto, the President of Mexico, promised in 2013 that $9.2 billion would be invested in social programs to alleviate crime by tackling its root causes, instead of following a policy of force. These initiatives consist of improving health and social services, roads, parks, lighting, and job opportunities for mothers. School hours also increased in an effort to keep the youth occupied and away from gang activity.

Waging War on Drugs

Mexico’s army has been deployed to arrest members of cartel kingpins. The Institutional Revolutionary Party is the ruling party, headed by Pena Nieto, and has rebranded itself into a modern force focusing on economic growth, poverty reduction and tackling drug-related violence. Under the current governance, crime and violence are usually dealt with at a local level. Exceptional cases include the severe violence occurring in Michoacán, where the President resorted to sending troops to back up the federal police forces. Vigilante groups are allowed to keep their own weapons when they agree to integrate into the official security forces.

Decriminalizing Drugs

Otto Pérez Molina, Guatemala’s president, proposed the method of regional decriminalization on growing drug trades. This effort could slim down profits obtained by the cartels from illegal drug trades in the black market, therefore crippling the drug business for brutal cartels.

Colombia adopted a similar approach by switching from the usual hard-line policies to the softer decriminalization method. Colombia hosted the 2012 Cartagena Summit of the Americas, which focused on decriminalizing drugs and expanded coordination between countries in combating drug calamity.

International Cooperation on Crime

Crimjust, a joint initiative implemented by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, is funded by the European Union. It was established to counter organized crime and drug trafficking through international cooperation. In 2016, Central American and South American countries like Panama and Colombia became one of the first few countries to join Crimjust in order to enhance their own national capacities to counter drug and illicit trafficking. The 2016-2020 program is expected to specifically strengthen investigations and criminal justice cooperation along the cocaine route in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa. Through Crimjust, the international efficacy in combating drug cartels in Latin America has been amplified.

– Heulwen Leung
Photo: Google

causes of poverty in Central America
Central America links North and South America and includes countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama. Tropical and evergreen rainforests bring a wealth of biodiversity and beauty to the region; however, these countries face high infant mortality, low life expectancies and especially devastating poverty. Here is an analysis of the main causes of poverty in Central America.

 

Oppressive Histories

The Central American countries have histories which involve changes in power to those who wish to conquer them. This began with Columbus and the Spanish conquest of the region, where oppression was the norm as the years went on and the region was ruled by different European elites who put down the indigenous people.

This treatment and “status quo” continued until independence reached the region in the 19th Century. By this point, though, a classist system had already been put in place, and the effects of which can still be seen in modern times. Many attribute Costa Rica’s relative success to the fact that there was only a small indigenous population when the Spaniards conquered the region, the numbers allowing them to avoid the tiered class system that developed in neighboring countries.

 

Unequal Distribution of Wealth

Of the main causes of poverty in Central America, unequal distribution of wealth is by far the most consistent. The region has seen periods of boom and bust since the end of World War II, yet the vast difference in wealth distribution remained unchanged for decades. If wealth inequality remains the same, the only way to reduce poverty is by raising incomes.

In this region, industry remains limited due to a lack of mineral and energy resources making factory jobs scarce while agriculture still dominates. These factors make it increasingly difficult for citizens to gain increased incomes; however, an adjustment to wealth inequality may not increase incomes, but it does reduce poverty.

From 2008 to 2014, there was a period of decreasing wealth inequality due to a rise in minimum wage. This change led to an almost doubling of the middle class, and with formal employment, millions were able to ascend classes and overall statistics improved, including a 65 percent decrease in infant mortality. Yet, despite these promising changes, the region remains the most unequal region in the world for prohibiting the decline of poverty.

 

Gangs and Drug Violence

One of the largest setbacks faced by Central America is the success of gangs and the drug trade. Many of the Central American countries are referred to as “transit countries” as they transport cocaine and other drugs from South to North America. With the increase of drug trafficking, there has also been an increase in organized crime brought about by competition between trafficking groups as well as the governments of the countries they operate within.

Instead of putting money into social programs which could alleviate poverty, the government must use resources to fight against these illegal activities and violence. The effects of the drug trade and organized violence can be seen in the number of children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador found in Mexico attempting to flee their home countries. This number reached 16,000 in the first few months of 2016.

These main causes of poverty in Central America are certainly problematic, but all hope is not lost. These countries have made significant improvements in different areas in recent years and will continue to do so in the address of the most pressing problems. With foreign aid and government cooperation, these countries can move past these issues and put the lives of their citizens first.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr


On December 1, 2016, the BBC reported that Albania’s clandestine drug industry may be producing almost half of the nation’s total GDP on a yearly basis. The recent aspiration of the Albanian government to become admitted into the European Union, though, has successfully and drastically accelerated efforts to crack down on the mafias, corruption and poverty in Albania which allow these occurrences to take place.

But first, the events beg the question: how has the situation gotten so bad? Albania has been stable in recent decades, although not on a large enough scale. For instance, while the capital of Tirana had seen significant growth in services and order, most of the rest of the country was neglected. Poor and impoverished citizens in the rural regions were left to fend for themselves – and found a better life through the growth of illegal drugs. These are just a few examples of the effects of poverty in Albania backed by research.

In response to this, Prime Minister Edi Rama showed eagerness in establishing prosperous policies and projects. For instance, the government of Albania is attempting to curb issues mentioned heretofore by providing financial services to rural areas, establishing consumer protection and promoting tourism throughout the nation. Also, police salaries have risen between 10 and 17 percent to steer away bribery.

Of course, more turbulent methods are also being pursued — Rama has promised to deal with the more aggressive concerns by expanding currently existing assets. With the help of the Italian government, and significantly more senior officers, keeping track of and attacking these illicit organizations has become easier. For instance, Rama oversaw the besiege of Lazarat in 2014, a village in southern Albania, where civilians ineffectively utilized military-grade weaponry against police.

At this rate, the flow of certain drugs throughout Europe should significantly decrease since Albania is one of the root causes of this spread. Today, Albania has opened up more government jobs to citizens while it also works to rebuild and refurnish once-neglected regions. Programs to promote rehabilitation are also a must to not only help in reducing poverty in Albania, but to also further the nation as a whole. As a result of these efforts, Rama hopes Albania will be accepted into the EU in the early 2020s.

– Kristopher Nasse

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Portugal

Portugal has a population of 10.5 million as of 2016, and a mortality rate of 548.6 deaths per 100,000 people. The top ten most common diseases in Portugal in 2016 were ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lower respiratory infections, COPD, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and stomach cancer.

The rates of ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes and stomach cancer have all gone down in recent years, though they still rank in the top ten. The top ten causes of disability in 2016 were low back and neck pain, sense organ diseases, depressive disorders, migraines, skin diseases, anxiety disorders, oral disorders, diabetes, falls and other musculoskeletal issues.

Broadly speaking, the deadliest diseases are cardiovascular diseases, cancer and neurological disorders.

Addiction: A Major Success Story

While Portugal has made strides in reducing the rates of the diseases described above, its biggest success has been in tackling addiction, particularly to heroin.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a major opioid epidemic made addiction one of the most common diseases in Portugal. By the mid-1990s, over one percent of Portugal’s population was addicted to heroin, and cocaine use was also prevalent.

To address this epidemic, Portugal took the opposite approach to other countries struggling with a similar epidemic, such as the United States. Whereas the U.S. cracked down on drug use and initiated a war on drugs, Portugal completely decriminalized all drugs, including heroin, in 2001. Dealing drugs was still illegal and punishable with jail time, but users caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug were sent to mandatory medical treatment.

This system completely bypassed the legal system, treating addiction as a health issue instead of a crime. This approach led to a 75 percent reduction in drug cases and a 95 percent reduction in drug-related HIV infections. Deaths due to overdoses or drug-related infections in Portugal are currently five times lower than the average across the European Union.

A model for change?

While any radical change in policy must be considered in the context of each country’s current legal system and culture, aspects of Portugal’s approach to addiction constitute a model that could be successfully implemented across the world.

The basis of this model are outreach programs whose employees keep track of local drug users and encourage them to quit. If they accept, they provide them with free counseling and treatment and daily methadone to wean them off the opioids. If they refuse to quit at that time, then outreach workers hand out clean needles and condoms to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

This model is also economically efficient. The U.S. currently spends approximately $10,000 per household to uphold its current drug policy, while Portugal currently spends $10 per citizen.

The most common diseases in Portugal are similar to those across the European Union. What makes Portugal stand out is its reaction to one particular disease: addiction. If Portugal brings this innovation to other realms of disease prevention, it could be poised to drastically lower its disease burden in the coming decades.

– Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

 

 

Five Reasons to Care About Global Health
Caring about global health isn’t limited to providing mosquito nets and vaccines. It is an expansive endeavor that attempts to deal with illnesses resulting from natural disasters, war and poverty. With this in mind, here are five reasons to care about global health.

 

  • Food Borne Illness: The development of international agricultural trade combined with the misuse of antimicrobials has increased the risk of foodbourne illness outbreaks from microbial contamination, chemicals, toxins and undiscovered diseases.

 

  • Global Economy: Disease outbreaks strain economies monetarily, but also weaken individual workers’ ability to support their families or contribute to society. The biggest hit to many countries affected by disease outbreak is a loss of tourism and consumer confidence. The cost to treat many diseases on such a large scale is astronomical compared to the preventative costs.

 

  • Drug Resistance: With new diseases appearing at a rate of one or more per year, known viruses and diseases are becoming increasingly drug resistant, elevating the likelihood of outbreaks. Diseases that were once considered treatable, like tuberculosis, are now becoming drug resistant.

 

  • Outbreaks: Transmittable diseases are making their way across oceans via airplane passengers and mosquitoes. Examples include the SARS epidemic in 2003, the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza in 2009 and, most recently, the spread of the Ebola virus in 2014.

 

  • Bioterrorism: Both accidental and deliberate outbreaks, whether malicious or simply negligent, pose severe threats globally. Examples include toxic chemical accidents, radionuclear accidents, environmental disasters and intentional release of toxic agents like anthrax and other bioterrorist actions.

There are many more reasons to care about global health in such an interconnected society as is present today. Organizations like the Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the World Health Organization are working to achieve global health security. Investing in global initiatives that increase the probability of early detection and control of communicable diseases can ensure a healthy global economy.

Rebekah Korn
Photo: Flickr

Super Gonorrhea
Entasis Therapeutics recently announced plans to progress an antibiotic that could be a solution for the growing issue of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea into a Phase 3 trial in 2018.

The announcement is good news after the World Health Organization deemed the rise of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea a “public health emergency.” Approximately 78 million people catch gonorrhea each year, and already 77 countries have reported data revealing that antibiotic resistance has created a variant of gonorrhea that is practically impossible to treat.

The misuse of existing antibiotics has rendered drugs that previously fought diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea to become useless. The variant of gonorrhea grew through the mistreatment of gonorrhea bacteria that was left in the throat after oral sex and believed to be strep throat. The World Health Organization has reported an increasing resistance to older and cheaper antibiotics, and there are even instances already of cases of super gonorrhea that are impossible to treat with any known antibiotics.

The organization known as WHO Global Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Program (WHO GASP) reports data for antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea trends. According to WHO GASP, the current last-resort treatment, the extended-spectrum cephalosporins (ESCs), is increasingly failing. In most countries, ESCs remain as the last antibiotic that can treat gonorrhea.

Current numbers may not even fully capture the growing problem. Many people infected with gonorrhea do not develop any notable symptoms, so they never receive a diagnosis or proper treatment. Many lower-income countries where gonorrhea is more common lack systems to diagnose and document instances of super gonorrhea.

To combat super gonorrhea and other cases of antibiotic-resistant diseases, the World Health Organization has teamed with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) to create the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP). GARDP’s goal is to develop new antibiotic treatments that will be long-lasting and accessible to all. The organization has also identified antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea as an important target for new antibiotics.

Three new candidate drugs exist in clinical development. One of these is zoliflodacin which got created by Entasis Therapeutics. GARDP is pledging around $57 million to the creation of the drug, which performed well in a Phase 2 Study in September. The Phase 3 trial should occur during the second half of 2018 and will last for approximately 18 months. Global health officials are hopeful that zoliflodacin and the other new drugs will help curb the antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea outbreak.

Lauren Mcbride

Photo: Flickr