Doctors have expressed “huge concern” that super-gonorrhoea has spread widely across England and to gay men.
Public Health England acknowledges measures to contain the outbreak have been of “limited success”. Doctors fear the sexually transmitted infection, which can cause infertility, could soon become untreatable.
Cases of super-gonorrhoea have now been detected in the West Midlands, London and southern England. Only 34 cases have been officially confirmed in laboratory testing, but this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg of an infection that can be symptomless.
The outbreak started in straight couples, but is now being seen in gay men too. “We’ve been worried it would spread to men who have sex with men,” Peter Greenhouse, a consultant in sexual health based in Bristol, told BBC News.
“The problem is [they] tend to spread infections a lot faster simply as they change partners more quickly.”
They are also more likely to have gonorrhoea in their throats. There further resistance is more likely to develop as antibiotics get to the throat in lower doses and the area is also teeming with other bacteria that can share the resistance to drugs.
The bacterium that causes gonorrhoea is extremely adept at shrugging off our best antibiotics.So two drugs – azithromycin and ceftriaxone – are used in combination. But now resistance to azithromycin is spreading, doctors fear it is only a matter of time before ceftriaxone fails too.
LET’S GET TO KNOW A LITTLE ABOUT GONORRHOEA
The disease is caused by the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae.The infection is spread by unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex. Of those infected, about one in 10 heterosexual men and more than three-quarters of women, and gay men, have no easily recognisable symptoms. But symptoms can include a thick green or yellow discharge from sexual organs, pain when urinating and bleeding between periods. Untreated infection can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and can be passed on to a child during pregnancy.
“If strains of gonorrhoea emerge that are resistant to both azithromycin and ceftriaxone, treatment options would be limited as there is currently no new antibiotic available to treat the infection.”
The Public health workers are encouraging people to practise safe sex to minimise the risk of sexually transmitted infections.