Gonorrhoea, that most ancient of sexually transmitted diseases is back in the news again! First described as ‘the clap’ in the 16th century and possibly even referred to as ‘zav’ or ‘zavah’ in biblical times, the gonococcus (N. gonorrhoeaea) has now been shown to have become highly resistant to conventional medical therapy and in particular Azithromycin. The ‘super-gonorrhoea’ has been identified in 15 cases in the north of England according to Public Health England (PHE). Although resistance is still rare, it does demonstrate a worrying trend according to PHE. All the cases have been in heterosexual patients in N England but with contacts in other parts of the UK.
When symptomatic, patients with gonorrhoea complain of burning sensation when passing urine, discharge from the penis or vagina or lower abdominal pain, but the problem is that up to 10% of men and 50% of women may have no symptoms at all which means that there may be significant delays in diagnosis, allowing the infection to spread.
PHE is worried that the effectiveness of conventional dual therapy will be under threat if this resistant strain is allowed to spread and Sexual Health consultants are worried that there may a lot more of this strain out in the community so very careful contact tracing will need to be implemented.
After Chlamydia, gonorrhoea is the 2nd most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the UK with 35,000 cases reported annually.