A lab technician checking the new strain
A new antibiotic-resistant form of gonorrhoea could be 'worse than Aids', according to some US doctors.
Gonorrhoea HO41 was first detected in a female sex worker in Japan two years ago and "the potential for disaster is great", warns William Smith from the US National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).
"It's an emergency situation," Smith told CNBC . "As time moves on, it's getting more hazardous."
HO41 has not yet killed anyone, or spread outside of Japan - but action is needed in advance, said Smith.
"That's what's kind of scary about this. 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."
The new strain of gonorrhoea resists existing drugs and the NCSD has asked the US government for an extra £34m in funding to prepare, reports Sky News.
It claims it is a case of "if, not when" a drug-resistant form of the disease arrives in the US, and that if action is not taken now it could potentially cost around£501m to treat.
"This might be a lot worse than Aids in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, told CNBC.
"Getting gonorrhoea from this strain might put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days," he claimed.
Gonorrhoea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
The disease used to be referred to as "the clap" and is normally passed through unprotected sex, but if treated early is unlikely to lead to long-term problems.
However, medical experts in the UK share the concerns of their American counterparts.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England's Chief Medical Officer, recently advised the Government to add the threat of drug-resistant gonorrhoea to the civil emergencies risk register.
"We have seen a worrying rise in cases of drug resistant gonorrhoea over the last decade," said Professor Davies.
"Antimicrobial resistance to common drugs will increasingly threaten our ability to tackle infections and the Health Protection Agency's work is vital to addressing this threat."
Cases of the sexually transmitted infection in the UK rose by 25% in 2011, with 21,000 new diagnoses.