Jul 232011

News has come out recently that gonorrhea is showing resistance to the antibiotics used to treat it. Gonorrhea is an infection caused by a bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Like many bacteria, it loves dark, damp places. In both men and women, it can infect the urethra, anus, mouth and throat. In women it can also infect the ladybits.

How does a bacterium like gonorrhea become antibiotic resistant? It’s evolution. All bacteria are slightly different because of random mutations in their genes. Antibiotics don’t always kill all the bacteria in an infection. Some of them are naturally resistant to the antibiotic. Those bacteria then can reproduce. Over time and repeated applications, the resistant bacteria become the common kind. And then we have a problem.

Gonorrhea can cause some really nasty long-term damage. It can cause sterility for both sexes (through either pelvic inflammatory disease or inflammation of the epididymis). It can also spread to infect joints, causing arthritis, or into the blood, which could be fatal. Gonorrhea can also be transmitted to newborns in the process of a vaginal birth. In newborns, it can cause blindness. All gonorrhea infections should be treated.

Since all infections should be treated, the best way to deal with the rise in antibiotic resistance to gonorrhea is to prevent infections.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea? First, it’s important to know that it’s possible to have gonorrhea without symptoms. Around 90% of women and 10% of men with gonorrhea don’t have symptoms. Symptoms of a genital infection include a) a burning feeling while peeing, b) white, yellow, or green discharge from a penis and c) bleeding between periods. An anal infection may itch or burn, cause painful bowl movements, or create a discharge. Throat infections generally only cause a sore throat. Symptoms can appear up to two weeks after the infection starts.

Gonorrhea spreads by fluid contact, so vaginal, oral, and anal sex can all spread it. A simple skin-to-skin contact won’t spread it, unlike HPV. Like all STDs, the only way to 100% prevent it is to never have sexual contact with other people. That’s usually not possible. The next best thing? a) use barriers (like condoms, latex or nitrile gloves, or dental dams) correctly and consistently with all toys and body parts that come in contact with genitals, b) get yourself and your partner(s) regularly tested, especially before having sexual contact with a new person, c) restrict the number of people you choose to have unprotected sex with.

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