At least 16 cases of the mutated strain were detected in northern England this year, including 12 in Leeds, Public Health England (PHE) said in September. The strain, which is resistant to first-line antibiotic azithromycin, was first reported in Leeds in March and has spread, with cases reported in patients from Macclesfield, Oldham and Scunthorpe.
Davies said in her letter: “Gonorrhoea is at risk of becoming an untreatable disease due to the continuing emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
“Gonorrhoea has rapidly acquired resistance to new antibiotics, leaving few alternatives to the current recommendations. It is therefore extremely important that suboptimal treatment does not occur.”
The BBC said the letter was also signed by the chief pharmaceutical officer, Dr Keith Ridge.
Almost 35,000 cases of gonorrhoea were reported in England last year and it is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK after chlamydia. The majority of cases affect people under the age of 25.
Infected patients may experience discharge or pain while urinating, but around 10% of men and almost half of women do not suffer any symptoms. If untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to infertility or septicaemia in rare cases.
Concerns have been growing over “untreatable” strains of gonorrhoea. In 2012 the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said drug-resistant forms of the STI were spreading across Europe.
Dr Andrew Lee, a consultant in communicable disease control at PublicHealth England, said: “Investigations are ongoing into a number of cases of anti-microbial resistant gonorrhoea, These are seen from time to time around the country and those affected have been effectively treated with alternative antibiotics.
“We know that the bacterium that cause gonorrhoea can mutate and develop new resistance, so we cannot afford to be complacent. Individuals can significantly reduce their risk of any STI by using condoms with all new and casual partners and getting tested regularly.”
He added: “Public Health England will continue to monitor, and act on, the spread of antimicrobial resistance and potential gonorrhoea treatment failures, to make sure they are identified and managed promptly.”