Gonorrhoea: More cases of antibiotic-resistant strain identified in England

The strain of gonorrhoea being recorded is resistant to the main antibiotic used in England to treat the infection.

Three new cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea have been identified in England. According to the UK Health Security Agency, which confirmed the cases, is yet to know if treatment for these new cases has been successful.

What to know about this new strain

The new strain of the sexually transmitted infection was found in a female Londoner and a heterosexual couple based in the Midlands; they are all in their 20s. They tested positive for Neisseria gonorrhoeae - the bacteria that causes the STI.

These recent cases are separate from the one reported in December 2021. Experts say, this strain of gonorrhoea, is resistant to the ceftriaxone, the main antibiotic prescribed in the UK for the treatment of gonorrhoea.

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Health experts are awaiting results of follow-up tests to determine if the treatment administered for these new cases has been successful. The man -also in his 20s - diagnosed with the infection in December, was successfully treated.

Dr Katy Sinka, STI Section Head at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said:

After a couple of years without any cases of this hard to treat form of gonorrhoea, we have now seen 4 cases in the last 2 months. It’s too soon to say whether this will be the start of a longer-term trend, but we do know that STIs are on the rise in general.
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Positive gonorrhoea test result Getty/ WLADIMIR BULGAR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Symptoms, risks and precautions

Common symptoms of gonorrhoea include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when urinating, pain and discomfort in the rectum. Amongst women and people with a uterus or ovaries, some signs of the STI are lower abdominal pain and bleeding between periods.

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Dr Sinka said, the antibiotic resistant strain is worrying as ‘ordinary’ STIs could have lasting implications on the lives of those infected.

Getting an STI isn’t as simple as taking some medicine and moving on with your life – if not properly treated, they can have long term impacts on your and your partner’s health. Adding antibiotic resistance into the mix makes the impact on your life even greater.
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Untreated gonorrhoea could have lasting implications on the lives of those infected Getty/ Henadzi Pechan

In women and people with uterus and ovaries, the bacteria can spread to the reproductive organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This disease can result in ectopic pregnancies and infertility.

Dr Sinka said:

There are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of gonorrhoea and other STIs. Use condoms consistently and correctly with all new or casual partners, test regularly for STIs and if you have any symptoms such as unusual discharge, don’t have sex until you are tested.

Early treatment is recommended to mitigate the long-term impact of this STI.

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