STD Superbugs – and What That Means for You

std superbugs

Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, oh my! What does it mean when these once common but curable STDs become resistant to antibiotics?

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report (via NBC) provides new guidelines for treating these STD “superbugs” due to evidence of increased resistance to previously effective treatments like antibiotics. While syphilis and chlamydia are in the process of becoming resistant (thus they have only shown signs of antibiotic resistance in some cases so far), gonorrhea is already in full blown superbug mode.

A superbug is a bacteria that has evolved to survive multiple drugs that previously cured the infection. So, what is gonorrhea? How does it affect the body? What does it mean that it might not be curable? And what can we do about it?

Gonorrhea Superbug Symptoms

Gonorrhea, along with chlamydia and syphilis, are caused by the bacteria entering the body, not a virus. Gonorrhea is contracted by oral, anal, or vaginal sex, but not by sitting on a public toilet seat (you can’t get any STDs from a toilet seat). Symptoms can include pain while urinating, or penile or vaginal discharge (gonorrhea literally means “flow of seed” because it was mistakenly thought penile discharge was “seed” flowing out against its will), but many people won’t have symptoms at all. If they do, it is often mistaken for a bacterial or vaginal infection. If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and/or infertility.

So, what does it mean when an STD becomes a superbug, and we might not be able to cure an infection that can cause such serious conditions? It means that STDs are “learning” and if they continue to spread, we may never be able to eradicate them. This is one of the many reasons why vaccination is key – although we do not have a vaccination for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, there are vaccinations for HPV and Hepatitis B. Finally, although resistant strains have yet to be reported in the United States, WHO’s finding are concerning because funding and testing for new drugs and treatments takes a long time – time we may not have before STD superbugs are experienced here.

Preventing STD Superbugs

Vaccination is one form of prevention for STD superbugs, but it’s not the only option. Gonorrhea is spread through sexual intercourse, including oral and anal sex (with unprotected anal sex having the highest risk factor).

First, talk to your partner before engaging in sexual activity about when the last time they were tested was and what kind, if any, STDs/STIs they might have. If it’s been awhile since either of you have been tested, it is a good idea to get tested before having sex (tips on having that awkward conversation here).

Second, use condoms – we cannot stress this enough. Using a condom is one of the best ways to prevent contracting or spreading STD superbugs. “I don’t like them” is not a valid reason to engage in health threatening behavior. If Nike were to make a slogan regarding STDs, it would be “Just Do It – With a Condom.” No excuses – unless you and your partner have both been tested for STDs recently, and have had an open and honest conversation about forgoing this form of protection, it’s not an option.

Third, get treatment ASAP. If you think you may have been exposed to an STD/STI or are experiencing symptoms, seek treatment immediately. Besafemeds is an affordable, discreet, and fast way to get treatment – contact us today to get the help you need.

And finally, follow doctors orders religiously. Doctors prescribe a certain amount of medication designed to be taken with specific directions. When a doctor prescribes an antibiotic to be taken twice daily for 10 days, it doesn’t mean twice daily until it goes away, maybe after 6 days. Just because the symptoms have stopped it doesn’t mean you are healed. Misuse of antibiotic drugs (along with treating someone prior to testing, and people engaging in risky behavior while not showing symptoms) is one of the leading causes of drug resistant superbugs, so do your part and follow doctor’s orders!

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