Gonorrhoea Is Becoming Harder, & Sometimes Impossible, To Treat

Photographed by Megan Madden.
A press release from the World Health Organization (WHO) has some concerning news about gonorrhoea. The sexually transmitted infection is becoming harder — and sometimes impossible — to treat, thanks to antibiotic resistance. The WHO data was collected from 77 different countries and three of them — Japan, France, and Spain — have shown untreatable strains of gonorrhoea.
"The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them," Dr. Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the WHO, explained in the press release.
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Symptoms of gonorrhoea include painful or burning urination, discharge from the genitals, or bleeding from the vagina between periods. It's also possible to have an anal or throat infection. Anal symptoms include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements.
If left untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (which can cause pain and infertility) and can lead to an increased risk of contracting HIV. The WHO attributes the increase in gonococcal infections to decreasing condom use, increased urbanisation and travel, poor infection detection rates, and inadequate or failed treatment.
"It's important to understand that ever since antibiotics appeared on the scene, Neisseria gonorrhoeae (the bacteria that causes gonorrhoea) has been fairly quick in developing resistance to all the classes of antibiotics that have been thrown at it," said Manica Balasegaram, director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, according to CNN.
Gonorrhoea has developed resistance to nearly every class of antibiotics used to treat it, including penicillin, tetracycline and fluoroquinolones, the CDC said. It is recommended that people get tested regularly for STIs, and engage in safer sex practices like using barriers, including for oral sex. It's also been shown that rinsing with Listerine after oral sex can reduce gonorrhoea bacteria in the mouth, but it is not a replacement for condom use.
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