The United States has witnessed an alarming spike in sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, for the fourth year running, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
revealed Tuesday (August 28) at the National STD Prevention Conference in Washington.
According to the CDC’s preliminary figures, in 2017 alone, a record 2.29 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were diagnosed in the United States, breaking the previous year’s record by a whopping 200,000-plus cases.
Based on its preliminary data for 2017, here’s a CDC analysis of the number of STD cases diagnosed in 2017 as opposed to the STD cases reported in 2013, to give you an idea of the kind of jump witnessed in the last four years, which is really frightening, to say the least.
“Gonorrhea diagnoses increased 67 percent overall (from 333,004 to 555,608 cases according to preliminary 2017 data) and nearly doubled among men (from 169,130 to 322,169). Increases in diagnoses among women — and the speed with which they are increasing — are also concerning, with cases going up for the third year in a row (from 197,499 to 232,587)” – (CDC)
Caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonococcus) bacterium, gonorrhea is an STD with painful symptoms that can range from penis discharge and severe burning during urination to testicular pain, in the case of men, while female symptoms include vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, or burning with urination.
Gonorrhea can spread through any form of sexual contact and although curable with antibiotics, it can cause serious and sometimes fatal complications if left untreated.
One of the major causes for concern, as far as gonorrhea is concerned, is the disease’s progressive resistance to antibiotics, which has now become so critical that nearly every class of antibiotic has become redundant against the disease, with ceftriaxone remaining the single effective option for treating gonorrhea in the United States.
However, Gail Bolan – M.D., director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention – says that, sooner or later, gonorrhea will develop ceftriaxone-resistance, too.
“We expect gonorrhea will eventually wear down our last highly effective antibiotic, and additional treatment options are urgently needed,” she said.
“We can’t let our defenses down — we must continue reinforcing efforts to rapidly detect and prevent resistance as long as possible,” Bolan added.
“Since 2015, CDC has recommended health care providers prescribe a combination of two drugs to people diagnosed with gonorrhea, a single shot of ceftriaxone and an oral dose of azithromycin,” Bolan also said.
“That approach seems to be working,” she said, adding that “emerging resistance to ceftriazone has not been seen since the dual therapy approach was implemented, and there has not yet been a confirmed treatment failure in the United States when using the recommended therapy.”
Experts at the Tuesday conference appeared unanimous in their summation that gonorrhea’s resistance to practically all class of antibiotics was indeed cause for concern and appropriate measures on a war footing was the need of the hour.
Infectious disease expert with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. Edward Hook said that despite the severity of the antibiotic-resistance issue, “the number of new antibiotics available and the development of new antibiotics has slowed greatly,” in the last couple of decades.
“So we have this continued inexorable process of the gonococcus developing antimicrobial resistance, coupled with fewer new antibiotics to pick up and take care of the problem if it develops,” he said. “That’s a very troublesome combination.”
Dr. Bruce Farber – Chief of Infectious Diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., and at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. was quoted by HealthDay, earlier this year, as saying that “resistant gonorrhea already is all over the United States.”
He added: “It’s maybe not a strain like that you’ve just read about from the U.K., which is extraordinary, but nevertheless generally these cases are occurring.”
He was referring to a gonorrhea case diagnosed in England earlier in the year, in which the affected man could not be cured because of his resistance to all of the commonly used antibiotics.
“Primary and secondary syphilis diagnoses increased 76 percent (from 17,375 to 30,644 cases). Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) made up almost 70 percent of primary and secondary syphilis cases where the gender of the sex partner is known in 2017. Primary and secondary syphilis are the most infectious stages of the disease.” – (CDC)
Brought on by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, syphilis is largely the result of sexual promiscuity and prostitution.
However, a pregnant woman with syphilis can also transmit the disease to her baby during gestation or at birth, causing congenital syphilis.
Not only are there different types of syphilis but there are different stages as well, all of which can be treated accordingly but, again, if treatment is not received early enough it can have long-term and painful consequences, including increased HIV risk.
“Chlamydia remained the most common condition reported to CDC. More than 1.7 million cases were diagnosed in 2017, with 45 percent among 15- to 24-year-old females.” – (CDC)
Chlamydia, the most common among the three STDs in question, as the CDC data shows, is caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium and has gonorrhea-like symptoms for both men and women.
Generally spread through any form of sexual contact, it can also be transmitted from mother to baby during labor.
Avoiding treatment can lead to painful urethra infection in men and can cause reproductive complications in women – among other issues, for both genders.
“The United States continues to have the highest STD rates in the industrialized world,” said the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, David Harvey.
“We are in the midst of an absolute STD public health crisis in this country. It’s a crisis that has been in the making for years,” he added.