Once considered a relatively treatable sexually transmitted disease, it now seems that a new strain of gonorrhoea classified as drug resistant has emerged. According to the Daily Mail, health experts in a new report have warned that a new strain of the bacterial infection has manifested into a ‘superbug’, consequently becoming resistant to antibiotics, medication, which otherwise has been considered an effective treatment for the infection. Recent statistics show a 25% rise in what has been termed by experts as ‘untreatable gonorrhoea’. Such findings I believe are considerably worrying and show that despite the various campaigns to bring sexual health awareness to the public consciousness, the message of safe sex is not working.
Gonorrhoea is a form of bacterial sexually transmitted infection recognised for being one of the UKs most common STIs. Caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoea or gonococcus, the infection is spread through unprotected sex and sharing sex toys of an affected person. Although symptoms can in many cases be asymptomatic, common symptoms of the infection include abnormal vaginal or penile discharge, pain while urinating and in women unexplained bleeding between periods. Unlike this new strain of the infection, which seems to have developed a resistance to the usually recommended treatments, gonorrhoea is generally treated with a single dose of antibiotics, which according to the NHS, are clinically proven to be up to 95% effective in successfully treating the infection.
The study, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), has confirmed that approximately 20,000 new cases of the treatment-resistant strains of gonorrhoea have been found. It was revealed that nearly a third of these cases reported, derived from people that had previously been affected with the gonorrhoea infection. The World Health Organisation worryingly has warned that such cases of the drug resistant- infection have spread in various parts of the world.
Not only is it concerning that the rates of those infected with gonorrhoea (in particular the treatment-resistant strain version) have increased. Such figures show that the importance of sexual health and sexual awareness is imperative and that something needs to be done to prevent an epidemic. The Health Protection Agency is also attempting to bring forth awareness of the new strain of gonorrhoea to the public domain, by creating the first Gonorrhoea Resistance Action Plan. Otherwise known as Grasp, this plan also aims to set out actions and find a solution to prolong the life of current prescription treatments.
It seems that contraceptive failure and a lack of sexual education or awareness are primarily to blame for not only the rise of gonorrhoea, but the rise of the new strain of the bacterial infection. Critics have argued that having unprotected sex, and thus relying on the antibiotic, which seemingly in the past have been effective in treating the infection, may have contributed to help the bacterial infection creating genetic modifications and subsequently form a resistant to medications.