Sexual Health Monday May 9, 2011

Gonorrhoea and DNA acquisition

For the first time researchers have discovered a fragment of human DNA in bacteria. When studying neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria which causes gonorrhoea, scientists also found that this transfer of DNA seems to be a recent result of the bacteria's evolution.

This provides an insight into why gonorrhoea can adapt and survive in the body so well; it's one of the oldest recorded diseases and one of the few which remains exclusive to humans.

The ability of the gonorrhoea virus to acquire DNA suggests it may be able to develop new and different strains of itself, but researchers don't know whether this will mean the bacteria can become more resilient or if it might make treating this STI easier.

When looking at neisseria meningitidis, which causes meningitis, scientists found that DNA was absent. Scientists say the transfer of human DNA to gonorrhoea must have occurred around 200,000 years ago when the two bacterial species first divided.

Previously there were a number of antibiotics which could cure gonorrhoea, but there's now just one option for treatment because the STI has developed a resistance to all other antibiotics.

Hopefully this news will encourage more people to take an STI home test to find out if they have caught gonorrhoea, so they can treat it and avoid future infections whilst it's still possible to do so.

If left undiagnosed and untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can cause ectopic pregnancy or sterilisation. In rare cases men and women can develop a form which leaves the genital tract and enters the blood stream, causing arthritis and an infection of the inner lining of the heart.

Thanks to online services, it's never been easier or more discreet to get an STI test. You can order one online, provide a sample at home and post it back to the lab. Your results will then be sent to your home and you'll be able to order treatment online too. This guarantees your privacy and saves you the embarrassment of discussing your sexual health with your family GP, which many people want to avoid.

Scientists don't understand what the human DNA does inside the gonorrhoea virus. "The next step is to figure out what this piece of DNA is doing," concluded researchers.

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