Just last month, health officials in Great Britain cautioned that nation’s physicians and pharmacies about the dangers posed by drug-resistant strains of the sexually transmitted infection.
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That concern is now being echoed by Dr. Robert Kirkcaldy, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist in the division of STD prevention.
“Resistant gonorrhea and the prospect of untreatable gonorrhea are real threats,” he said, with resistant strains now detected in many parts of the world.
“The threat of untreatable gonorrhea underscores the importance of identifying new treatment options, ensuring adherence to screening and treatment guidelines — including treatment of (infected) partners — and increasing awareness among individuals on how they can best protect themselves from infection,” Kirkcaldy added.
Gonorrhea spreads through unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex. More than 350,000 new cases were reported in the United States in 2014, according to the CDC. But, the agency believes that the exact number is much higher. Young people, especially those under 24, appear to be most at risk of gonorrhea, the CDC says.
Symptoms of the infection are often absent. Undiagnosed and untreated gonorrhea may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterus) and/or chronic pelvic pain, the CDC reports.
To prevent such complications, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force vice chair Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo said that at-risk older women and all sexually active women aged 24 and younger should be routinely screened for the infection.
The task force didn’t issue specific guidance for men. But the CDC said that anyone who’s sexually active is at risk of gonorrhea. The CDC recommends that all men who have sex with other men get tested yearly for the infection.