Growing resistance to antibiotics has
complicated efforts to rein in common
sexually transmitted diseases like
gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis, the
World Health Organization warned Tuesday
as it issued new treatment guidelines.
Globally, more than one million people
contract a sexually transmitted disease
(STD) or infection (STI) every day, WHO
“Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are
major public health problems worldwide,
affecting millions of peoples’ quality of life,
causing serious illness and sometimes
death,” Ian Askew, head of WHO’s
reproductive health and research division,
said in a statement.
WHO estimates that each year, 131 million
people are infected with chlamydia around
the globe, 78 million with gonorrhoea and
5.6 million with syphilis.
More than one million people contract a
sexually transmitted infection every single
day, WHO medical officer Teodora Wi said.
Until recently, the three diseases, which are
all caused by bacteria, had been fairly easy
to treat using antibiotics, but increasingly
those drugs are failing, WHO said.
“Resistance of these STIs to the effect of
antibiotics has increased rapidly in recent
years and has reduced treatment options,”
the UN agency said.
Resistance is caused, among other things,
by doctors overprescribing antibiotics, and
patients not taking the correct doses.
Injected into the buttock or thigh
Strains of multidrug resistant gonorrhoea
that do not respond to any available
antibiotics have already been detected,
while antibiotic resistance also exists in
chlamydia and syphilis, though it is less
common, it said.
When left undiagnosed and untreated, the
three diseases can have serious
consequences, causing pelvic infamatory
disease and ectopic pregnancy in women,
and increasing the chances of miscarriage,
stillbirth and newborn death.
They can also greatly increase the risk of
being infected with HIV, and untreated
gonorrhoea and chlamydia can leave both
men and women infertile.
To rein in resistance, WHO on Tuesday
presented new guidelines aimed at ensuring that doctors prescribe the best antibiotics, and the right doses, for treating each specific disease.
To reduce the spread of the diseases,
national health services will need to
“monitor the patterns of antibiotic
resistance in these infections within their
countries,” Askew said.
For gonorrhoea for instance, WHO
recommends that health authorities study
local resistance patterns and advise doctors
to prescribe the most effective antibiotic
with the least resistance.
For syphilis, meanwhile, WHO recommended a specific antibiotic – benzathine penicillin – that is injected into the buttock or thigh muscle.
It stressed that condom use was the most
effective way to protect against STD