I recall the horror show that was sex education in high school, complete with a slide presentation of the advanced stages of various sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
They liked to slot this into the period just before lunch to really drive the point home.
As awful as it was to sit through, it was informative.
A person can have an STI without having obvious symptoms of the disease. Common symptoms of STIs include vaginal discharge, urethral discharge or burning in men, genital ulcers, and abdominal pain.
More than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. Eight of these are linked to sexually transmitted diseases.
Of those eight, four are curable: syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis.
The other four are viral infections that are incurable but can be somewhat managed with treatment: hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV, and human papillomavirus (HPV).
However, recent studies show that one of the curable ones could be moving to the ‘incurable’ list if scientists don’t act quickly.
Per The Conversation and an article written by researchers Remco Peters and Liteboho Daniel Maduna, gonorrhoea, which can usually be treated with antibiotics, affects 87 million people every year worldwide.
The treatment usually involves a ceftriaxone injection combined with azithromycin in the form of an oral tablet.
But, it looks like the infection is becoming resistant to treatment, prompting the World Health Organisation to classify Neisseria gonorrhoeae (its scientific name) as a high-priority pathogen for the development of new antibiotics.
On to South Africa:
The African region has the highest burden of gonorrhoea worldwide. In South Africa alone, it is estimated that more than 2 million new cases occur annually. Yet there isn’t much information about antibiotic resistance.
More than two million new cases annually. That’s staggering.
In a recent study, researchers analysed Neisseria gonorrhoeae strains taken from 42 high-risk men presenting with gonorrhoea symptoms at public healthcare facilities in Johannesburg.
Drug resistance rates were alarming. Almost 30% of strains were classified as multidrug-resistant (resistant to more than three drugs). Almost 80% were resistant to ciprofloxacin. This drug was used to treat gonorrhoea in South Africa until 2008.
Fifteen percent of the strains were resistant to azithromycin. Fortunately no resistance to cefixime and ceftriaxone was present.
Most of the bacterial strains were unique to South Africa and genetically different from those reported elsewhere in the world.
Despite the relatively small sample size, the results are still alarming.
Further studies have backed up the findings, with resistance to ciprofloxacin consistently high across the country (more than 65%), while the prevalence of azithromycin resistance is variable.
A recent study from KwaZulu-Natal province found azithromycin resistance in 68% of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria; 71% were multidrug-resistant. In contrast, surveillance sites reported azithromycin resistance in less than 5% of samples.
The researchers propose a number of solutions including intensive monitoring of the situation, more studies into resistant strains, more testing, and a focus on developing new drugs.
Also, and this one should be obvious:
Wear a condom.
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