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News stories about gonorrhoea becoming 'untreatable' have been doing the rounds and it's even been featured in our blog, but after recent CDC reports from the US has caused a resurgence in the story, it made me wonder whether they aren't scaring people unnecessarily?
In the past gonorrhoea used to be just as easy to treat as chlamydia or of the other more common bacterial STIs, with a single treatment known as Cefixime. However now patients are required to get an injected treatment, ceftriaxone or in the UK can use Cefixime with a complementary treatment like Azithromycin. However, health authorities are already worrying about potential resistance to these treatments. This is because there may be many other people who haven't been diagnosed with the infections that have strains that are already resistant to the alternative treatments available. Health officials from the CDC are also warning of the potential of a gonorrhoea epidemic its resistance to available treatments is allowed to grow.
As disconcerting as a gonorrhoea epidemic is, aren't we jumping the gun? It is still treatable and as long as people go for regular STI tests and make sure that they take all their medications, the condition is under control. Obviously the potential for the bacteria becoming resistant to other available treatments is very worrying and therefore the development of new gonorrhoea treatments are very important, but this is where the main concern lies. In the past authorities could rely on pharmaceutical companies to do the research and put in the investment to develop treatments, however, for many the development of anti-biotic treatments are no longer profitable as it can take years of investment.
This may mean, in my opinion, that governments will have to incentivise the development of new treatments, not just for gonorrhoea, but other conditions treated with antibiotics. These include tuberculosis as well as Legionnaires' disease, which are both becoming very difficult to treat.
Gonorrhoea is currently the second most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection in the UK and along with chlamydia has shown a steady increase over the last ten years. Along with these figures there has also been a resurgence of, especially among young people, syphilis. Yes, it is worrying to think that there is the potential for a lack of treatments able to deal with infections as bacteria become 'smarter', but it's also important not to cause panic, as they still can be treated.
The first step to getting treated is to get a test and these can be requested from your GUM clinic or is available online from sites such as ours. It's important that, if you do choose to order a test online, you only do so from sites that use the services of actual laboratories, as this essentially means that they follow a similar procedure to what you'd expect from an actual sexual health clinic, as most of them asks you to collect a sample yourself anyways. The sooner you get gonorrhoea treated, the easier the bacteria will be to eradicate