Fears of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea spread

Gonorrhoea infections spike as health experts warn the sexually transmitted disease is becoming resistant to antibiotics – and sufferers are missing the early signs of infection

  • Gonorrhoea, which can lead to infertility, on the rise in Victoria, Queensland
  • Most common in gay and bisexual men but increasing among heterosexuals
  • The figures showed a 129 per cent increase in infections in heterosexual men 
  • Syphilis on the rise in Melbourne, dating apps blamed for increases in all STIs

Fears of a gonorrhoea epidemic are on the rise in Australia amid a warning by global health experts the sexually-transmitted disease is becoming resistant to antibiotics. 

Gonorrhoea infections in Melbourne spiked by 45 per cent between 2015 and 2018, figures compiled by the Department of Health showed. 

The data also showed a 220 per cent increase in gonorrhoea infections among women during that period.  

In Queensland, the Mackay Hospital and Health Service region on the state’s central coast recorded 893 gonorrhoea infections in 2020 – its highest total ever.

Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett said those contracting the disease were also missing the warning signs they had been infected.

Melbourne and parts of Queensland have seen big increases in gonorrhoea, while the STI is considered a big problem in the United Kingdom and South Africa

‘While socialising was restricted over the last 12 months, dating sites haven’t been restricted in the same way – they’ve become a little more important in terms of linking up with others,’ the Deakin University expert said.

Monash University epidemiologist associate professor Eric Chow said notified cases of gonorrhoea are on the rise globally, news.com.au reported. 

‘Globally we are seeing an increase in STIs and gonorrhoea,’ he said. 

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria and affects the genitalia, rectum or throat.

The condition can lead to infertility in men and women if untreated.

Symptoms of gonorrhoea differ in men and women.

Gonorrhoea is most common in gay and bisexual men but it is also on the increase in heterosexual men.

The figures showed a 129 per cent rise in infections in heterosexual men.

Men may experience a burning sensation while urinating and sometimes discharge. Swollen and painful testicles are also common, especially without treatment.

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria and affects the genitalia, rectum or throat

Women with gonorrhoea often experience no symptoms, or in some cases pain during urination and/or sex. Discharge is also a possible symptom of gonorrhoea for women. 

Experts warn sexual behaviour driven by the use of dating apps is behind the rise of STIs.

The increase in gonorrhoea infections follows data showing big increases in syphilis in Melbourne.

Health authorities are struggling to combat a syphilis outbreak that is ravaging Melbourne’s outer suburbs, with experts saying there is no single cause.

Professor Deborah Williamson said online dating apps, such as Tinder, Hinge and Grindr, a reduced fear of HIV and less access to treatments is driving the surge

The dangerous sexually transmitted disease had almost been consigned to the history books but has made an aggressive comeback in the Victorian capital, with statistics compiled by the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre revealing there is a spiralling number of cases on the city’s fringes.

More than 1400 cases of syphilis were recorded in Victoria in 2020, and already 560 so far this year.

Professor of microbiology at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Deborah Williamson, said there was no single identifiable cause of the surge, but rather a ‘complex suite’ of factors.

Casual sex increases the likelihood of contracting and STI but condoms remain the best protection

Professor Williamson said the availability of casual sex through online dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge and Grindr had played a part, along with HIV becoming a manageable illness which could encourage more people to have unprotected sex.

Melbourne’s syphilis hotspot was Brimbank in the western suburbs, which recorded 56 cases last year, followed by the western satellite suburb of Melton with 46 infections and Casey in the outer southeast with 42 detected. 

Symptoms could include a high temperature, tiredness, swollen glands, hair loss, and a painless sore at the points of sexual contact.

National records of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis diagnoses between 2000 and 2018 have revealed that the biggest rise in infection rates was among 55 to 74-year-old females.

While infections in that demographic are lower than in females in their teens, 20s and 30s, the rate of increase showed the disease needs to be monitored among older women, a University of Melbourne study said.

Use of condoms are considered the best protection against the spread of STIs. 

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