Cases of terrifying “super gonorrhoea” could be set to increase in the UK as the infection outpaces developments in antibiotics, a doctor has warned.
Incidents of gonorrhoea have been on the rise in Europe at an alarming rate in recent years, leading health officials to urge people to get tested.
Data from 2019 compared to 2022 found that the number of diagnoses was up 21% in the UK, while in Denmark cases are thought to have shot up as much as 40% compared to the previous year.
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"Super gonorrhoea" strains are versions of the regular infection that are resistant to antibiotics and treatment options – and, as global gonorrhoea case numbers increase, so the chances of new resistant strains popping up rises.
With symptoms including thick green and yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, it is spread through unprotected sex.
Dr Gareth Nye, a medical expert from the University of Chester, told the Daily Star that the number of cases were rising around the world and as such, the chances of "super gonorrhoea" cases in the UK increasing were likely.
"Although we don't fully have the numbers to suggest this yet, based on other countries I would be sure we would see increased numbers of 'super gonorrhoea' in this country,” he said.
Breaking down how case numbers had changed in recent years, Dr Nye said: “Worldwide increases in gonorrhoea is being seen this year with a number of European countries noting sharp upticks in the number of cases reported.
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“Denmark for example has seen increases of around 40% compared with the previous year and this increase is seen across all sexual orientations.
“We are seeing increased cases in almost every country in the world and with more cases, the likelihood of coming across antibiotic-resistant strains increases with it.”
He explained how these increased case numbers came with their own danger with the risk of mutation becoming greater and the resistance to antibiotics more robust.
“'Super gonorrhoea' refers to any strain of the bacteria which is resistant to current treatment options,” he said.
“The first case of this type was seen back in 2016 with around 12 known cases being reported since then.
"However three of these were reported [in] 2022.
“The danger is that strains are gaining resistance quicker than we can create new antibiotics.
“Patients catching this version require more advanced level of treatment and usually hospital admission."
Discussing the importance of testing and proper, educated awareness of the condition, he added: “We have to move away from the notion that STIs are common and easily treated.
“In men, slow treatment can lead to testicle and prostate infections which can drop fertility.
“In women, it can spread to your reproductive organs leading to long-term pain and infertility. It can also increase your risk of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.”
He added: “In extreme cases, the bacteria can enter your bloodstream leading to sepsis.
“People also need to be aware that gonorrhoea infections are not only found in the penis or vagina. Infections can be found in both the rectum and mouth/throat increasing your risk of serious complications.
“Due to gonorrhoea not having symptoms in around 90% of cases, it's important people practice safe sex as much as possible and have regular health screens.”
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