(Bloomberg) -- A new antibiotic pill for gonorrhea was as good as current treatments in a late stage trial for an infection that has resurfaced around the globe, the drugmaker GSK Plc said.

Initial data from the trial indicated that the oral antibiotic gepotidacin worked as well as a combination of drugs that can be used to treat gonorrhea, one of which is an intramuscular injection. 

The results come as drug resistant strains crop up around the world, with almost no drugs left to treat the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. 

Since the trial began, the US CDC reduced its recommendation for treating gonorrhea down to just one drug — the intramuscular ceftriaxone. That drug has already failed to treat some patients in several countries. 

The data shows that gepotidacin “could be a treatment option in the future for patients with gonorrhea, particularly those suffering from resistant strains of gonorrhea or those that are intolerant to current treatment options,” Aruni Mulgirigama, GSK’s head of infectious diseases, general medicines, said in an interview. Detailed results from the trial will be presented at an upcoming scientific conference. 

GSK shares rose as much as 0.5% in early London trading. The stock is up 20% in the last six months.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection that, if left untreated, can lead to infertility and increases the risk of HIV infection. Cases have surged, more than doubling between 2009 and 2021 in the US. In the UK, diagnoses were the highest on record in 2022, and up more than 50% compared to the previous year. 

Read More: Untreatable Gonorrhea Threat Spurs GSK, Innoviva Race for Cures

With competition in the market decreasing, the company expects peak sales of £2 billion ($2.5 billion) a year from gepotidacin and two other anti-infectives. GSK also has a candidate for a gonorrhea vaccine in a mid-stage trial. Last year, Innoviva also released positive results from trials of its antibiotic for gonorrhea. 

Gepotidacin is also being tested in urinary tract infections, with positive data in 2023 showing that the antibiotic was better than the current gold standard treatment. 

Drugmakers have largely exited the development of antibiotics and governments have looked for ways to entice them back into the space. Mulgirigama said GSK was investing to develop a sustainable pipeline for the future, adding that she hoped GSK would be “well placed” to leverage potential future policy initiatives and pull incentives around antibiotics. 

(Updates with share price, details of job title, cases in UK)

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