A recently discovered strain of gonorrhea has proven resistant to antibiotics and could be a 'superbug' with effects as bad as AIDS.
Researchers said HO41, discovered in Japan in 2011, could rise to the level of drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA, CRE, which infect as many as one in 20 hospital patients and kill about half those infected.
Although HO41 has yet to result in any deaths, naturopathic physician Dr. Alan Christanson warned of the bacteria's potential dangers.
"This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," Christanson told CNBC. "It's an emergency situation," said William Smith, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, because gonorrhea can be difficult to detect and this particular strain could potentially put someone in septic shock and kill them in just a few days.
"We are at lows in terms of infections, but this strain is a very tricky bug and we don't have anything medically to fight it right now," Smith said.
Resistance to antibiotics is a rapidly mounting crisis, as diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, once relatively simple to cure, have become able to withstand treatment.
Prescription of antibiotics for viral infections -- which are not treatable using antimicrobial drugs -- and widespread dosing of animals raised for food have accelerated the appearance of these superbugs.