World Health Organisation WARNS

  • World Health Organisation has warned of a drug-resistant gonorrhea threat
  • Superbug has been able to spread because of oral sex and condom use decline
  • Sexually transmitted bacteria can live in the throat, where is exposed to drugs
  • This exposure has allowed the sexually transmitted bacteria to become immune 

Oral sex is causing the spread of a dangerous gonorrhea superbug, experts have warned.

The untreatable strain of gonorrhea is rapidly spreading across the world putting millions of lives at risk, the World Health Organisation has warned.

Experts said that incurable gonorrhea has started to spread after becoming resistant to antibiotics, which has been partly caused by oral sex and a decline in condom use.

The sexually transmitted bacteria can live at the back of the throat and, because of this, has been evolve immunity to antibiotics used to treat common throat infections.

The WHO issued a warning after it confirmed that three people had contracted the superbug.

Oral sex is causing the spread of an untreatable gonorrhoea superbug, experts have warned

Oral sex is causing the spread of an untreatable gonorrhea superbug, experts have warned

The rise of ‘super gonorrhea’

The bacterial infection is normally treated with a short and simple dose of antibiotics.

But gonorrhea has become increasingly resistant to common antibiotics.

Bacteria become immune to antibiotics when they evolve new self defense mechanisms to stop the drugs from being effective.

Antibiotic resistance is chiefly driven by the over-subscription of antibiotics, according to researchers.

In 2016, experts from the WHO warned that a ‘super’ strain of gonorrhea could become immune to antibiotics in a ‘matter of years’.

But now experts from the WHO have said it is ‘only a matter of time’ before last-resort gonorrhea antibiotics would be of no use at all.

Experts said that incurable gonorrhoea has started to spread after becoming resistant to antibiotics, which has been partly caused by oral sex and a decline in condom use

Experts said that incurable gonorrhea has started to spread after becoming resistant to antibiotics, which has been partly caused by oral sex and a decline in condom use

‘Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug,’ said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based UN health agency.

‘Every time you introduce a new type of antibiotic to treat it, this bug develops resistance to it.’

Role of oral sex in spreading the disease

She added that the rapid spread of the antibiotic resistant bacteria has been caused in part by oral sex.

The sexually transmitted bacteria can live at the back of the throat and, because of this, is frequently exposed to antibiotics used to treat throat infections.

Repeated exposure to antibiotics makes it easier for bacteria to evolve drug resistance.

‘When you use antibiotics to treat infections like a normal sore throat, this mixes with the Neisseria species [gonorrhea bacteria] in your throat and this results in resistance,’ Dr Wi told the BBC.

A decline in condom use, caused by misguided fears that they cause HIV in the developing world, use is also thought to have helped the infection to spread, she added.

Condoms protect against the spread of the disease, which is transferred through sexual fluids.

Dr Wi said medics have now documented three specific cases – one each in Japan, France and Spain – of patients with strains of gonorrhea against which no known antibiotic is effective.

‘These are cases that can infect others. It can be transmitted,’ she said.

‘And these cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhea is actually more common.’

‘Pressing need’ for new medicines

The WHO found the disease has evolved widespread resistance to a first-line antibiotic known as medicine ciprofloxacin, and is currently becoming increasingly resistant to azithromycin.

In most countries, last-case antibiotics are now the only single antibiotics that remain effective for treating gonorrhea, according to researchers.

Manica Balasegaram, director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, said the situation was ‘grim’ and there was a ‘pressing need’ for new medicines.

The pipeline is very thin, with only three potential new gonorrhea drugs in development and no guarantee any will prove effective in final-stage trials, he said.

‘We urgently need to seize the opportunities we have with existing drugs and candidates in the pipeline,’ he said.

‘Any new treatment developed should be accessible to everyone who needs it, while ensuring it is used appropriately so that drug resistance is slowed as much as possible.’



What is it?

Chlamydia is a sexually-transmitted disease that can infect males and females.

It stems from bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is passed through contact, via vaginal, anal or oral sex.

If left untreated it can damage a woman’s fallopian tubes and cause infertility. In very rare cases it can cause infertility in men too.

What are the symptoms?

The majority of people do not feel symptoms of chlamydia. Doctors recommend getting regular STD tests (urine test or swab) to detect it.

However, some do experience some side effects.

Symptoms in women:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Burning feeling when you urinate
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Pain in the pelvis
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal bleeding

Symptoms in men:

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Burning feeling when you urinate
  • Rarely: Pain and swelling in one or both testicles

Symptoms of chlamydia after anal sex:

  • Pain in the rectum
  • Discharge
  • Bleeding

How is it treated?

The infection is easily treated with antibiotics.

Doctors typically prescribe oral antibiotics, usually azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline.


What is it?

A very similar STD to chlamydia, gonorrhea is also bacterial, spread through contact.

It stems from bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoea.

What are the symptoms?

Women typically do not see symptoms; men do.

When a woman does experience symptoms, they are very mild and easily mistaken for a bladder infection.

Doctors recommend getting regular STD tests (urine test or swab) to detect it.

Symptoms in men:

  • Burning feeling when you urinate
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • Rarely: Painful or swollen testicles

Symptoms in women:

  • Burning feeling when you urinate
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods

How is it treated?

Gonorrhea is curable with antibiotics, though health officials fear this may be the first ‘untreatable’ STD as the bacteria builds up resistance to our standard methods of treatment.

The CDC recommends treating the infection with a combination of two antibiotics: azithromycin and ceftriaxone.

The infection has already become immune to penicillin, tetracycline and fluoroquinolones.

Increasingly, gonorrhea is building up a resistance to the individual drugs.


What is it?

A chronic bacterial disease, syphilis can be contracted by other means but is typically a sexually-transmitted disease.

In very rare cases, it can be spread through prolonged kissing, as well as the more common routes of transmission: vaginal, anal and oral sex.

It comes from the bacteria Treponema pallidum.

What are the symptoms?

Sufferers develop sores, though these can often go ignored.

The infection develops in stages

Stage one:

  • Small, painless sores (like ulcers) on genitals or in the mouth
  • Appear within 10-90 days after exposure
  • They disappear within six weeks, and do not leave a scar, before developing to stage two

Stage two:

  • Rosy rash on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet
  • Moist warts in the groin
  • White patches inside the mouth
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • This all fades away without treatment before developing into stage three

Latent syphilis:

  • Dormant, no symptoms

Stage three:

  • Without treatment it can progress to more severe issues with the heart, brain and nerves
  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Dementia
  • Deafness
  • Impotence
  • Death

How is it treated?

In the early stages, patients can receive an injection of Benzathine penicillin G. This will not undo the internal damage but will eliminate the infection.

For those with latent syphilis – and are unsure how long they had it – doctors recommend having three doses of the penicillin injection, seven days apart from each other.

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Source: Gonorrhoea superbug is rapidly spreading across the world