Drug-resistant strain of gonorrhoea hits the UK

Sep 18, 2015 at 5:45 a.m. ET
Image: Eric Audras/Getty Images

The north of England has been hit by a highly drug-resistant strain of gonorrhoea and it's something we should all be aware of.

According to the BBC, the outbreak of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) is centred around 12 confirmed cases in Leeds and four reported cases in Macclesfield, Scunthorpe and Oldham. But there are likely to be more undiagnosed cases, which could spread the disease across the country if they aren't contained quickly.

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This strain of the disease is caused by the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex. If untreated it can spread to other regions of the body where it causes swelling and irritation.

According to the National Health Service, in 10 percent of heterosexual men, and up to 50 percent of women and homosexual men, the initial symptoms are not easily recognisable but can include "thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when urinating and (in women) bleeding between periods."

Normal treatment of gonorrhoea involves the two drugs azithromycin and ceftriaxone but the strain of super-gonorrhoea seen in the U.K. is totally immune to azithromycin.

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A sexual health consultant based in Bristol, Peter Greenhouse, told the BBC that, "This azithromycin highly resistant outbreak is the first one that has triggered a national alert. It doesn't sound like an awful lot of people, but the implication is there's a lot more of this strain out there and we need to stamp it out as quickly as possible."

He continued, "If this becomes the predominant strain in the U.K. we're in big trouble, so we have to be really meticulous in making sure each of these individuals has all their contacts traced and treated."

Testing for gonorrhoea is easy — for women a swab is taken from the vagina and for men a sample of urine is taken. The results of the test can take up to two weeks to be returned, according to the NHS.

For more information on gonorrhoea, and how to treat it, contact the National Health Service or refer to Patient.Info and BUPA.

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