According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a new strain of untreatable bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, also known as “super” gonorrhoea, is likely to spread through oral sex, reports the Independent.
Oral sex and a decline in the use of condoms are reportedly behind the spread. The sexually transmitted infection (STI) is rapidly developing resistance to antibiotics, therefore making the situation quite grave.
According to the BBC, about 78 million people pick up the STI each year. In a study from 2009 to 2014, the WHO analysed data from 77 countries which showed gonorrhoea’s resistance to antibiotics becoming widespread.
The bacteria became resistant to the first-line medicine ciprofloxacin, further increasing resistance to another antibiotic drug called azithromycin, and resistance to last resort treatments known as extended-spectrum cephalosporins (ESCs).
Dr Teodora Wi from the WHO said there had been three cases – in Japan, France and Spain - where the infection was completely untreatable, reports the Forbes.
She said: “Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug. Every time you introduce a new class of antibiotic to treat gonorrhoea, the bug becomes resistant.”
One of the reasons this antibiotic-resistant bacteria is spreading is due to unprotected oral sex, where it can transmit Neisseria gonorrhoeae from a person’s privates to one’s throat and vice versa.
Once transmitted via oral sex, the infection shows no symptoms on its own, but mimics other typical symptoms of throat infections such as strep throat or sore throat. Therefore, Dr Wi said that treating the infections like a normal sore throat mixes with the Neisseria species in the throat, resulting in resistance.
The WHO is calling on countries to monitor the spread of resistant gonorrhoea and to invest in new drugs. Ultimately, the WHO said vaccines would be needed to stop gonorrhoea, reports the BBC.
What is gonorrhoea?
It is a sexually transmitted infection, caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is spread by unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex.
Untreated gonorrhoea can further lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, also increasing the risk of getting HIV.