Introduction: Over the last several years, Neisseria gonorrhoeae has developed decreased susceptibility to extended-spectrum cephalosporins worldwide. Gonococcal antimicrobial surveillance programs in multiple regions have documented the rise in N. gonorrhoeae isolates' minimum inhibitory concentrations to cephalosporins, and the first cases of ceftriaxone treatment failure have been reported. These developments have prompted the use of the term 'superbug' and concerns about the emergence of untreatable gonococcal infections.
Areas covered: Since the publication of the last detailed review of the use of cephalosporins for gonorrhea in 2009, several new developments have occurred, which are detailed in this review. A variety of treatment strategies have been proposed in response to this 'superbug' threat, including increasing the dose or providing multiple doses of cephalosporins, multidrug therapy, rotating therapeutic regimens and individualized treatment based on susceptibility testing.
Expert opinion: A robust public health response is needed that includes better diagnosis and treatment of pharyngeal gonorrhea, improved surveillance of antimicrobial resistance, informed treatment approaches and reduction of the global burden of gonococcal infections.