The Covid-19 pandemic has been brutal. The coronavirus’s has an uncanny ability to trigger and worsen other pre-conditions in people. To make things worse, the overuse of antibiotics due to Covid-19 has caused an increase in the cases of a mutated and antibiotic-resistant super gonorrhea.
This isn’t a new disease, contrary to what some news articles make it sound like. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been aware of this mutated strand of N. gonorrhoeae for years and has been working tirelessly to help alleviate the problem.
However, it’s now become even more resistant to treatments compared to the standard gonorrhea bacterial infection. And since people are using much more antibiotics than normal due to Covid-19, their resistances for this mutated super gonorrhea are even more compromised.
A WHO spokesperson has told The Sun that there has also been a lack of STD services during the Covid-19 pandemic which further contributes to the problem.
“Overuse of antibiotics in the community can fuel the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhea,” Said the WHO spokesperson.
“Azithromycin – a common antibiotic for treating respiratory infections – was used for Covid-19 treatment earlier in the epidemic. During the pandemic, STD services have also been disrupted. This means more STD cases are not diagnosed properly with more people self-medicating as a result.”
“Such a situation can fuel the emergence of resistance in gonorrhea including gonorrhea superbug (super gonorrhea) or gonorrhea with high level resistance to current antibiotics recommended to treat it,” The spokesperson continued. “Resistant strains in gonorrhea continue to be a critical challenge to STI prevention and control efforts.”
How dangerous is this?
The number of new gonorrhea cases every year is ~90 million with ~half a million of those happening in the U.S. What’s more, these numbers keep increasing at a rate of ~17% every year. Since 2014, the total number of cases has jumped by ~63%.
When left untreated, this dangerous strain of N. gonorrhoeae can increase the risk of HIV and other diseases by as much as 500%. Even on its own, gonorrhea has the following symptoms:
- An unusual green or yellow watery discharge from the tip of the penis or the vagina of the infected person.
- A painful and burning sensation in the penis or tenderness and pain in the lower abdominal area for women.
- Inflammation on the foreskin of the penis or bleeding after sex and between periods for women.
- Additional infections in the rectum, eyes, and throat for both sexes.
All these symptoms are especially disturbing given that the gonorrhea numbers keep skyrocketing.
What is being done about it?
The absurd resistance of this super gonorrhea infection makes it currently untreatable. Scientists and medical professionals are urgently looking for new treatment options but it’s unclear when (and if) new treatments will become available.
Kevin Cox, the executive chairman of UK start-up Biotaspheric Limited has said that “People infected with super gonorrhea will infect others and accelerate antimicrobial resistance. We urgently need new treatments.”
How can you protect yourself?
Naturally, it’s not a smart idea to not use antibiotics when you need them. An argument can be made that antibiotics are being overused for Covid-19, of course. Studies have shown that doctors use much more antibiotics (up to 71%) than what’s necessary for treating the coronavirus (~5% according to many estimates).
At the same time, however, we can’t just tell people to not use antibiotics when they’re sick – antibiotics do help in many cases, that’s why they are used. So, while people and medical professionals should be more mindful about the overuse of antibiotics, when they are needed, they should be taken.
Instead, refraining from sexual contact with strangers is a good idea, especially if you’ve had antibiotic treatments recently. This goes double for unprotected sex.