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Oral Sex Is Spreading a Gonorrhea Superbug

By Hillary Eaton ; Updated January 29, 2018

These days, you can never be too careful about your sexual health, and now there’s a new and very alarming reason to take serious precautions when it comes to your sex life.

The World Health Organization warns that a new aggressive strain of gonorrhea is on the rise worldwide, according to data collected from more than 77 different countries. Although gonorrhea is a relatively common sexually transmitted infection, this particular strain is resistant to antibiotics, making it harder (or impossible) to treat.

“The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them,” said Dr. Teodora Wi, medical officer in human reproduction at WHO, in a press release on Friday.

And it appears that the recent spread of this gonorrhoea superbug is largely due to oral sex and made worse by people neglecting to use protection.

When speaking with the BBC, Dr. Wi explained that a decrease in condom use and the fact that the bacteria that cause gonorrhoea can mix with existing antibiotics stuck in the back of the throat is causing a major upswing in the infection as well as in the difficulty of treating it.

“When you use antibiotics to treat infections like a normal sore throat, this mixes with the Neisseria species [gonorrhoea bacteria] in your throat, and this results in resistance,” Dr. Wi told the BBC.

So, in other words, exposure to antibiotics is causing the gonorrhoea bacteria to evolve and become drug-resistant. In fact, Japan, Spain and France have each had a case in which no existing antibiotic was able to effectively cure the patient.

With an estimated 78 million new cases of gonorrhoea reported each year, this is especially worrisome news. It’s also why researchers must develop a new antibiotic ASAP. However, Dr. Manica Balasegaram, director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, doesn’t see a light on the horizon just yet, telling the BBC the situation is “grim.”

“There are only three drug candidates in the entire drug [development] pipeline and no guarantee any will make it out.”

Wish we had some better news, guys. In the meantime, stay safe out there! And remember: Condoms are your BFF.

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