WHO Updates Treatment Guidelines For Gonorrhea, Syphilis And Chlamydia: Here's Why

The World Health Organization has recommended new guidelines for treatment of sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis to contain antibiotic resistance in causative organisms.

Cases of STI are increasing rapidly worldwide as overuse or misuse of antibiotics may help organisms to develop resistance toward drugs. In turn, antibiotic resistance in microbes may limit the treatment options available to manage the STIs.

According to the WHO report, of the three STIs, few strains of gonorrhea resistant to all the available drugs were already isolated. Though resistance toward antibiotics is less common in syphilis and chlamydia, there is an urgent need for keeping them in check.

STIs that could be treated with simple antibiotics go undiagnosed and untreated in some cases. When left untreated, the infection may lead to infertility in both men and women in addition to developing resistance toward antibiotics. The risk of stillbirth and death of newborns is increased when pregnant women are left untreated for STIs.

In women, the STIs were found to cause problems like miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease. On the other hand, the STIs increase an infected person's chance of acquiring HIV by three times.

As far as gonorrheal infection is concerned, cheap and readily available antibiotics were found to be less effective than before because of an increased number of resistance cases. According to the new WHO guidelines, quinolones can no longer be used for the treatment of gonorrhea on grounds of widespread resistance.

WHO has also recommended the U.S. health authorities to identify the drug-resistant patterns of different strains in the locality and advise physicians on the drugs to be prescribed.

Syphilis, if untreated in pregnant women, could spread to the fetus, resulting in the death of the unborn. About 143,000 stillbirths, 44,000 pre-term or low weight babies and 62,000 newborn mortalities were reported to have been caused by syphilis worldwide in 2012. WHO has recommended administration of one dose of benzathine penicillin in an infected person's thigh muscle or buttock by a qualified doctor or nurse.

Meanwhile, infection with chlamydia often results in co-infection with gonorrhea. Chlamydial infection is often symptomless but may damage the reproductive system extensively.

"The new WHO guidelines reinforce the need to treat these 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," says Ian Askew, Director of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO.

Photo: eLife - the journal | Flickr

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