Antibiotic resistance is becoming a *major* problem in the treatment of sexually transmitted infections
We've been hearing about "superbugs" for a while now, and when it comes to sexually transmitted infections, the idea of a super bug that can't be killed or takes a heavy-duty Rx to tackle is especially terrifying. Of course, no one plans to get an STI, but if you do contract a disease that's easily treated with an antibiotic, it's not such a big deal, right? Unfortunately, that's not quite the case anymore. (FYI, Your Risk of STDs Is Way Higher Than You Think.) Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control announced that a strain of gonorrhea called, you guessed it, Super Gonorrhea was the latest antibiotic-resistant strain to raise a big red flag to the health care community. Before that, we heard the same thing about chlamydia, and now things are getting worse, with even more STIs are being added to the list of potentially untreatable infections. Just last week, the World Health Organization released new guidelines for treating syphilis, as well as the new strains of gonorrhea and chlamydia, based on their increasing resistance to antibiotic treatment.
Wondering what makes "regular" chlamydia or syphilis turn into a "super" bug? According to the Mayo Clinic, as more and more people get treated with the same antibiotics for the same infections, the bacteria that causes those infections adapts in order to survive, therefore forcing a need for new formulations of antibiotics to be introduced. Eventually, those original antibiotics become less effective or even ineffective when used, leaving doctors minimal or no treatment options. All of these STIs are serious if left untreated and can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and miscarriage. Gonorrhea and chlamydia specifically, can cause infertility in both men and women, so it's essential to stop these STIs in their tracks. According to the WHO's statement, gonorrhea has developed the strongest resistance of the three STDs that have seen the growth, with some strains not responding to any antibiotics...at all.
Ian Askew, director of reproductive health and research at WHO said in the organization's statement that "chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are major public health problems worldwide, affecting millions of peoples' quality of life, causing serious illness and sometimes death." He went on to say that the new guidelines are an effort to "treat these STIs with the right antibiotic, at the right dose, and the right time to reduce their spread and improve sexual and reproductive health." One way to do that, WHO urges, is for countries to track the prevalence of resistance and the type of antibiotics used to treat strains of gonorrhea in hopes of creating a treatment strategy that will work regionally.
On the flip side, there are things you can do to lower your risk of being infected with one of these super bugs (or any STD for that matter) in the first place. Condoms are an absolute must for all kinds of sex, including oral, if you want to keep a barrier between you and any potential diseases. If you do get infected, the new treatment guidelines emphasize that a course of action should be taken as soon as possible in order to prevent the infection from progressing or spreading to someone else.