Rates of gonorrhoea soared by 25%
Gonorrhoea infections in England soared by 25% last year, according to figures released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). The infection has also shown early signs of becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.
The number of sexually transmitted diseases in general is also on the rise, says the HPA, who noted a 2% rise in the number of diagnoses in 2011 compared to the previous year.
Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI and although the higher number of diagnosed cases is partly due to more sensitive testing, unprotected sex is also to blame, according to the HPA.
"We are very concerned. It is a global problem,” said Dr Gwenda Hughes, of the HPA. “The gonorrhoea bacterium is very successful at developing resistance to every treatment used in the past few decades.
"We are worried that in the next five years, or some point in the future, that this is going to be a very difficult infection to treat."
Gonorrhoea is only contracted through sexual intercourse and is currently treated with antibiotics which tend to clear up the infection successfully.
The two groups most at risk are heterosexuals between the ages of 15 and 24, and gay men. Of all the new cases of gonorrhoea, 57% were diagnosed within one of these groups.
In 2011 the total number of cases of gonorrhoea that were diagnosed in England was 20,965 compared to 16,835 the previous year.