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214.6m people affected by Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis annually – WHO

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By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale

The World Health Organisation, WHO, yesterday disclosed that worldwide a total of 214. 6 million people are infected with three most common Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) – chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis annually even as it raised alarm that they are becoming more difficult to treat with some antibiotics due to misuse and overuse.

Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are all caused by bacteria and are generally curable with antibiotics, unfortunately, these STIs often go undiagnosed.

Disclosing these in its new guidelines for the treatment of the three STIs in response to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, the World health body explained that each year, 131 million people are infected with chlamydia, 78 million with gonorrhoea, and 5.6 million with syphilis.

WHO further noted that resistance of these STIs to the effect of antibiotics has increased rapidly in recent years and has reduced treatment options. Of the three STIs, according to WHO, gonorrhoea has developed the strongest resistance to antibiotics.

According to WHO’s Director of Reproductive Health and Research, Ian Askew, “Strains of multidrug-resistant gonorrhoea that do not respond to any available antibiotics have already been detected. Antibiotic resistance in chlamydia and syphilis, though less common, also exists, making prevention and prompt treatment critical,” WHO stated.

It further explained that when the three are left undiagnosed and untreated, these STIs can result in serious complications and long-term health problems for women, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and miscarriage, and untreated gonorrhoea and chlamydia can cause infertility in both men and women.

“Infection with chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis can also increase a person’s risk of being infected with HIV two- to three-fold. An untreated STI in a pregnant woman increases the chances of stillbirth and newborn death. “Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are major public health problems worldwide, affecting millions of peoples’ quality of life, causing serious illness and sometimes death.”

According to Askew, the new WHO guidelines would 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.

Askew, urged national health services to monitor the patterns of antibiotic resistance in these infections within their countries.  The new recommendations are based on the latest available evidence on the most effective treatments for these 3 sexually transmitted infections.

On treatment for gonorrhoea, WHO urged countries to update their national gonorrhoea treatment guidelines in response to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. It noted that national health authorities should track the prevalence of resistance to different antibiotics in the strains of gonorrhoea circulating among their population.

WHO further warned that the new guidelines do not recommend quinolones for the treatment of gonorrhoea due to widespread high levels of resistance.

Also on syphilis, the new WHO guidelines strongly recommend a single dose of benzathine penicillin.  For Chlamydia, WHO called on countries to start using the updated guidelines immediately, as recommended in the “Global Health Sector Strategy for Sexually Transmitted Infections endorsed by governments at the World Health Assembly in May 2016.

WHO also explained that when condoms are used correctly and consistently, condoms are one of the most effective methods of protection against STIs.

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