The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently issued new guidelines for treatment of the three most common sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) in response to the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are usually caused by bacteria and treatable with antibiotics. It is estimated that 131 million people are infected with chlamydia, 78 million with gonorrhea, and 5.6 million with syphilis each year.

Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of the drugs used to treat them.

In the last few years, the resistance of these diseases to antibiotics has rapidly increased and this has reduced treatment options. Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of the drugs used to treat them. This means the germs are not killed and they will continue to reproduce. The WHO states that this may have developed because of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.
Gonorrhea shows the strongest resistance to antibiotics among the three. An entire class of antibiotics is now being labelled unusable to treat it. Effective Gonorrhea treatments can prevent infertility in both women and men. If left untreated, a person’s risk of being infected with HIV may increase by two or three-fold if they are infected with gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis.

This is an urgent public health threat because gonorrhea treatments and other STI control largely relies on effective antibiotic therapy.

The WHO Plan of Action

The WHO’s Director of Reproductive Health and Research, Ian Askew, said “Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are major public health problems worldwide, affecting millions of peoples’ quality of life, causing serious illness and sometimes death. The new WHO guidelines reinforce the need to treat STIs with the right antibiotic, at the right dose, and the right time to reduce their spread and improve sexual and reproductive health. To do that, national health services need to monitor the patterns of antibiotic resistance in these infections within their countries.”

The report went on to advise national health authorities to closely monitor the prevalence of resistance to different antibiotics in these STIs circulating among their population. The new guideline calls on health authorities to “advise doctors to prescribe whichever antibiotic would be most effective, based on local resistance patterns.”

To see a detailed account of the new treatment recommendations, see the World Health Organisation’s website.
Given bacteria’s ability to adapt and survive antibiotics, it is critical to continuously track antibiotic resistance and encourage research and development of new treatment regimens.

Early diagnosis of an STI gives patients the best chance of effective treatment to fight off the infection. Regular checkups are important for your health, especially at a time when treatment for late diagnosed infections are becoming more difficult to treat.

Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley