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©Volodymyr Tverdokhlib/Shutterstock
©Volodymyr Tverdokhlib/Shutterstock
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This Oral Sex Superbug is on the Rise Worldwide

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 10 July 2017
Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is on the rise globally and, since it’s a pretty common sexually transmitted infection (STI), new drug interventions are in high demand. Of particular concern are infections that impact the throat, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

“When you use antibiotics to treat infections like a normal sore throat, this mixes with the Neisseria species in your throat and this results in resistance,” Dr. Teodora Wi, WHO’s Medical Officer of Human Reproduction, told the BBC. “The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them.”

In essence, the presence of gonorrhea bacteria is bad, but its existence in your throat is even worse. And in many instances, if the bacteria is present on the mouth, tongue, or throat region, it made its way there via oral sex.

The news of gonorrhea’s resistance to antibiotic treatment isn’t exactly a revelation. WHO data from 2009-14 shows a growing global resistance to the key antibiotics used to treat the STI. The data reflects a resistance to even the last-resort treatments. Now, WHO says, the need for new treatments is more urgent than ever.

“To address the pressing need for new treatments for gonorrhea, we urgently need to seize the opportunities we have with existing drugs and candidates in the pipeline. In the short term, we aim to accelerate the development and introduction of at least one of these pipeline drugs, and will evaluate the possible development of combination treatments for public health use,” Dr. Manica Balasegaram, Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) Director, said in a release.

“Any new treatment developed should be accessible to everyone who needs it, while ensuring it’s used appropriately, so that drug resistance is slowed as much as possible.”