Super Gonorrhoea: Calm the F down

Get tested regularly, talk to your partner(s), and employ a safer-sex tool kit to help reduce your risk.

Health Sexual Health Brian Webb

This article was published on November 9th, 2016

Sexually transmitted infections traditionally spread quicker through the gay community because of the open sexual nature. As far as sexual diseases go, gonorrhoea has some terrible symptoms, including discharge and intense burning when peeing. Untreated it can also cause all kinds of problems like inflammation in your prostate, meningitis, sepsis, infertility and arthritis to mention a few. ‘Super Gonorrhoea’, the rather terrifyingly named new strain of anti-biotic resistant gonorrhoea emerged in the UK and has now spread to North America.

History lesson:

Since the beginning of time, bacteria has learned to mutate, adapting to various types of conditions and treatments. When gonorrhoea was first discovered, sulfa drugs were used as treatment. By the 1940’s clinicians quickly switched to penicillin for treatment. The bacteria mutated its genetic makeup, allowing it to break down penicillin, essentially rendering it ineffective as a treatment method. This was the first sign that gonorrhoea was capable of becoming resistant to the existing antibiotics.

In 1983, scientists became to isolate the different types of strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics including penicillin, tetracycline, spectinomycin, and fluoroquinolone. By 2002, it was clear that only one class of antibiotics, cephalosporins, were left to treat gonorrhoea. Later, in 2007, it was discovered that oral treatments were starting to fail, which prompted the CDC to recommend a combination of both ceftriaxone and cephalosporin to be administered, accompanied with azithromycin to address potential emergence of the resistant strain.

In the past century gonorrhoea has developed a resistance to every antibiotic that has been used to treat it to date. The recent strain of ceftriaxone resistance has raised concerns because treatment methods have been less effective and it opens up for the potential for older strains to resurge.

The science community are looking at new ways of treating resistant bacteria strains for the future.

The reality:

While there is no need to panic, like any other STI, it’s still important to be aware of. Fortunately, both the regular gonorrhoea and super gonorrhoea are treatable. Before you panic and settle down to a life of celibacy, here are a few key things to remember about super gonorrhoea:

  • It’s pretty rare: Although numbers of reported cases were on the increase, super gonorrhoea isn’t common. You aren’t likely to come into contact with it.
  • It is still treatable: A monster round of heavy-duty antibiotics is successfully treating the infection. It could make you feel pretty dire, but it does put a stop to it.
  • Its not spreading rapidly: Numbers of new reported cases have dropped over the past two years.
  • It’s getting under control: In the past two years, the number of new super gonorrhoea cases has been on the decline.

What can you do:

Although it’s nothing to lose sleep over, sexual health should be taken seriously. Just as any other bacteria, gonorrhoea has developed a resistance over time. Be aware, educate yourself, and stop panicking; it’s not the end of the world. It is treatable and you will be fine even if you do get it. It’s important to get tested regularly, talk to your partner(s), and employ a complete safer-sex tool kit to help reduce your risk. Talk to your doctor about your risks and how you can protect yourself.

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