Gonorrhea is becoming harder treat, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned, with the threat of untreatable strains now a ‘grim’ reality.
WHO cited growing cases of antibiotic resistance, particularly in bacteria in the throat that can be spread by oral sex.
It’s believed antibiotics used to treat bacteria in the back of the throat are causing the disease to develop resistance.
The bacteria Neisseria Gonorrhea causes the sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Unprotected sex or sharing unwashed sex toys can cause the spread of the STI. Experts think the introduction of PrEP has led to an increase in men having sex without condoms.
Symptoms include a green or yellow discharge from the urethra as well as pain when urinating and bleeding between periods.
However, around one in ten infected men and almost half of infected women don’t experience any symptoms – particularly if they only have the bacteria in their throat or rectum.
If left untreated the infection can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and can cause complications during pregnancy.
The organisation estimates that 78 million people worldwide contract the sexually transmitted infection every year.
Cases of untreatable gonorrhea, sometimes known as ‘super gonorrhea‘ are appearing across the world.
In a telephone briefing with reporters, the Guardian reports that WHO Medical Officer Dr Teodora Wi detailed three specific cases of strains of gonorrhea where no known antibiotics are effective. There are diagnoses of this untreatable strain in patients living in Japan, France and Spain.
Dr Wi said ‘these cases may just be the tip of the iceberg … systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhoea is actually more common’
Dr Wi describes the STI as a ‘particularly smart’ bug. When treating the infection with new antibiotics, ‘the bacteria evolve to resist them.’
She said, ‘When you use antibiotics to treat infections like a normal sore throat, this mixes with the Neisseria species in your throat and this results in resistance.’
Public Health England (PHE) released statistics in July 2016 showing that infection rates of gonorrhoea in England rose sharply in recent years.
Between 2012 and 2015, the incidence of gonorrhea in the country rose by 53%, from 26,880 to 41,193 cases. Most notable was a rise among gay and bisexual men.
Read more about what you can do to protect yourself from super gonorrhea.
Leading gay TV doctor Christian Jessen responded to headlines saying oral sex was causing drug-resistance gonorrhea. He said the blame lies instead with the irresponsible use of antibiotics.
‘Oral sex is not making Gc resistant to antibiotics. Treating sore throats with antibiotics is,’ Dr Jessen tweeted.