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Staying free from antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea

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Gonorrhoea affects over 78 million people worldwide each year, mostly older teenagers and adults. It is mainly spread by having unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex.

The World Health Organization has reported a widespread resistance to older and cheaper antibiotics. This general resistance, is making Gonorrhoea much harder, and sometimes impossible to treat. Developed countries that are able to carry out proper surveillance and research have reported cases whereby affected patients have been given all the known antibiotics, still, the gonorrhoea infection remains untreatable! For this reason, the World Health Organization includes gonorrhoea in its list of bacteria that poses the greatest health risk to humans.

Let’s discuss what gonorrhoea is and how it affects our organ systems. Gonorrhoea is the world’s most commonly reported Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) and is caused by a bacteria known as Neisseria Gonorrhoeae. It affects over 78 million people worldwide each year, mostly older teenagers and adults. It is mainly spread by having unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex. It can also be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding. However, it cannot be transmitted during birth by C-section nor by sharing toilets or clothing. Usually, an infection with gonorrhoea presents with symptoms such as abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina, painful urination, testicular pain or lower abdominal pain etc. However, most people that have this infection show no symptoms and this is why regular STI screening is highly advised and should be done by individuals.

In recent years, there has been insufficient data about gonorrhoea in Nigeria but in the United States, proper surveillance revealed that there were about 390,000 reported cases of gonorrhoea which is less than half the 800,000 new cases per year. Missed infection or Untreated Infections usually have serious complications such as, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, and damage to the reproductive organs that may lead to male and female infertility in 15% of people. Properly diagnosed gonorrhoea can be usually treated by your doctor by giving antibiotics such as doxycycline, ceftriaxone, azithromycin or a combination of two of them. It is not advisable to administer these antibiotics or any other antibiotics without a doctor’s proper prescription because inappropriate usage can lead to antibiotic resistance as is the current case with gonorrhoea.

Antibiotic Resistance simply refers to when a bacterium has the ability to resist the effects of an antibiotic drug that was previously used to treat them. Bacteria are very smart organisms and when you continually use or misuse antibiotics, they get used to them, they understand how these antibiotics work and then change in some way which reduces the effectiveness of these antibiotics to treat infections. This is what is happening with gonorrhoea today and this is because many of us have mastered the act of self-diagnosis and self-prescription. For a minor cough, an itch or threatening flu, many would just walk into a pharmacy and pick up any antibiotics. The more unfortunate thing is that we do this not just for ourselves, but even for our children and so we kickstart this antibiotic resistance in their bodies at such a young age! This is our sad reality as there are no regulations against buying antibiotics here in Nigeria. It may seem very trivial to us right now, but don’t be caught with an infection that can’t be treated, it is no joke!

Currently, new drugs are being developed that could help fight against this antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea. Also, a vaccine is currently being formulated and tested and the results are promising. However, in the meantime, here are a few ways to safeguard our bodies from becoming antibiotic resistant or contacting antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Practice safe sex. Whether vaginally or orally, it is imperative to use a condom at all times if you are not married in or in a long term committed relationship. Besides abstinence, persistent condom use remains the mainstay against prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Next, minimize unnecessary antibiotic use. Let the physicians do their job. We must learn to go to the doctor if we feel unwell. Don’t self-diagnose yourself and don’t buy antibiotics from the pharmacy without doctor’s orders. Also, don’t always demand antibiotics from your doctor and in turn, doctors please don’t always prescribe antibiotics unless laboratory results confirm the diagnosis of a bacterial infection. Sometimes, some people don’t even have a bacterial infection; they may have a viral infection, yet, they demand antibacterial antibiotics. It makes no sense. This misuse of drugs is what gives bacteria the ability to resist the drug and consequently, the drug loses its efficacy, hence creating an even bigger problem for us all.

Lastly, we have to be able to have open and honest communication with our partners. If you feel that you may have gonorrhoea, don’t be ashamed to get tested or to tell your spouse. It’s better to get tested and treated than to be blissfully ignorant, walking around spreading an infection that could have been taken care of. Simple honesty helps keep you and your partner informed so as to take the necessary steps to get treated before it causes complications.

Antibiotic-resistant Gonorrhoea is a huge problem, especially in third world countries such as Nigeria, and the World Health Organization has recently declared that it is getting worse. Lack of education and information, lack of public awareness and lack of safe sexual practices have all led to the rise in this antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea. We must all do our part to ensure that we stay safe and take preventive measures to avoid being infected with an infection that may or may not be treated with antibiotics.

Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.



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