Antibiotic resistant strains of the sexually transmitted illness, Neisseria gonorrhea, have been on the rise, and the World Health Organization cites oral sex as a culprit.
“Super-Gonorrhea” is a term used for a gonorrhea infection that cannot be treated by conventional antibiotic therapy. Drug resistant strains cause infections that cannot be cured, hence increasing its risk of morbidity and spread to other individuals who think their partner is “cured”.
Gonorrhea infection may present with green/yellow discharge emanating from the penial urethra or female vagina or it may be asymptomatic. Additionally the bacteria could colonize or infect the rectum, mouth, or disseminate throughout the body, causing arthritis, rash and multiple other maladies. Untreated gonorrhea can also lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and increase one’s risk of acquiring HIV.
Oral sex allows an easy route of transmission if condoms aren’t used. According to Dr. Teodora Wi, WHO Medical Officer, “When you use antibiotics to treat infections like a normal sore throat, this mixes with the Neisseria species in your throat and this results in resistance.”
Let me explain. Superbugs develop when a bacteria survives an antibiotic treatment that should have killed it. The surviving bacteria, with its “super genes”, makes offspring that has the same “super genes” capable of withstanding the same antibiotic that didn’t kill its parent. The more exposure a bacteria has to antibiotics that it can withstand, the greater the possibility of it developing antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics used to kill throat infections are not always designed to kill off gonorrhea, hence any gonorrhea sitting in the throat after oral sex can produce resistant progeny.
Until recently, gonorrhea would be treated with a single dose of ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, or azithromycin. Due to a rise in resistance to these individual medications, the current treatment for gonorrhea infection recommended by the CDC is a single dose of 250mg of intramuscular ceftriaxone AND 1g of oral azithromycin.