New diseases keep emerging every time, and sexually transmitted infections, which are also called as the sexually transmitted diseases, STDs are no exception. Sexually transmitted infections could lead to a serious public health threat if left untreated.
What are STDs All About?
Sexually transmitted diseases are the ones that transmit from one individual to another via sexual contact. These mainly include genital herpes, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis, human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV. Most of these STDs stay asymptomatic for a long time. Even without any prominent symptoms, they can still be quite harmful and may be passed on to another person during sex.
How Do STDs Spread?
An individual may catch an STD by having anal, vaginal or oral sex with someone who already has an STD. Any person who is sexually active can contract an STD. You do not even have to ‘go all the way’ (have vaginal or anal sex) to contract an STD. Some STDs such as HPV and herpes spread by skin-to-skin contact.
Are STDs Too Common?
STDs are very common, especially among people under 25. There are around 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the U.S. About half of these infections show up in people aging 15 to 24. Young adults are at a higher risk of catching STD for various different reasons:
- Young women are biologically more prone to catching STDs
- Some youngsters do not get the recommended STD screen tests
- Many youngsters are hesitant to talk honestly and openly with a doctor about their sexual health and history
- Not having transportation or insurance cover makes it difficult for youngsters to access STD screening
- Multiple sex partners
What Are Super STDs?
Super STDs are the same as the regular sexually transmitted diseases. However, they are just resistant to the normal antibiotics used to treat the STDs. When an STD becomes ‘Super’, it means that the regular antibiotics treatment becomes completely ineffective and requires something more potent and strong to overcome the infection.
STDs Becoming Untreatable
In the United States, Super STDs are becoming more and more common. This has become a major issue of national concern. The World Health Organization has recently released new treatment guidelines for three of the most commonly occurring STDs – Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia considering these being the Super STDs out there today. This is because these STDs have become antibiotic resistant.
Gonorrhea has developed the strongest resistance to medication, but the concerns about untreatable Chlamydia and syphilis come at a time when the rates for these three STDs are rapidly increasing in the United States, especially among youngsters aging 20 to 24 years.
According to a study published by CDC in the year 2017, the most recent year available, from 2013 to 2017 the number of Chlamydia cases remained at a record high, syphilis cases nearly doubled, and gonorrhea cases increased by 67 percent.
Should You Be Worried?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that these Sexually Transmitted Diseases are hidden epidemics of massive health and economic consequences in the U.S.
In the United States, STDs are very common among young women, the highest prevalence being among women aging 20 to 24 years.
According to the CDC, there are more than 820,000 new gonorrhea cases each year in the U.S. alone. The fact is, gonorrhea has become the second most frequently reported infectious disease, after Chlamydia.
Earlier, gonorrhea was effectively treated by various classes of antibiotics, including the ubiquitous penicillin. Over a period of time, gonorrhea infection has developed resistance to most of them, and now, effective classes of antibiotics are needed to treat it.
The issue does not end here. The Gonorrhea infection has started to show decreased susceptibility to the ‘last line’ treatment option. This makes the infection a multidrug-resistant organism, generally referred to as “superbugs”.
As for syphilis and Chlamydia, the drug-resistant strains have not become very common in the United States yet, but the WHO report warns that this is an increasing problem, which is spreading to different of the world.
How Do The Superbugs Spread Via STDs?
Basically, it all starts with antibiotics. As the bacteria get exposed to more and more antibiotics, they find means to protect themselves. This is known as resistance, and the bacteria acquire it from small changes that take place in their DNA or genetic code.
As the resistant strain arises, every time an antibiotic is used; it kills the bacteria as there are no defense mechanisms. This basically wipes out the weaker bacteria, which completely eliminates rivalry and allows the resistant one to grow.
If you have been using antibiotics inappropriately – that is not following your physician’s recommendations, it is one of the prime reasons why superbugs are spreading at large. Infections that are caused due to bacteria are quite hard and also very expensive to treat. This is what has happened with gonorrhea, eventually making it a Super STD.
What Do The WHO Guidelines Indicate?
The WHO has come up with global standards and norms for the STD prevention and treatment intended for the healthcare professionals out there today. These standards provide specific recommendations for the treatment of super STDs, including gonorrhea.
They also help highlight the significance of taking prompt action. They urge medical and public health communities to coordinate well to monitor antibiotic resistance and also develop robust treatment options. The WHO states that superbug makes ‘bacterial prevention and quick treatment critical’.
Are There Any Other Possible Treatments Available?
The fact is that the doctors are just limited to one effective course of antibiotics to treat Super STDs. This is because research to develop new medication and bring them to the market takes many years. The most crucial thing that can be done here is to prevent the STD from transmitting.
What If You Catch Super STD?
As of today, the prescribed treatment for super STD is dual therapy or using two different medications – One shot of ceftriaxone along with oral azithromycin. This course effectively stops the infection. No medical treatment failures using this treatment option have been reported in the U.S as yet. However, the entire process is being closely administered.
Effective treatment for syphilis and Chlamydia has not changed and till date, no resistance has been reported in the United States.
Getting a STD is not the end here. Most of the STDs are treatable and curable. If either you have an infected partner or is it just you, both of you must start treatment immediately to avoid being re-infected.
Is It Possible To Prevent Super STDs?
Anyone who has been sexually active can get a STD.
With that being stated, Sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented and there are some vital steps that can help keep yourself and also your partner healthy. Remember the fact; protecting your health is your prime responsibility:
- Use precautions – it is imperative to use condoms. Make sure you use them appropriately every time you have sex.
- Limit yourself to one partner only – ideally, it is best to have sex with only one partner who agrees to establish a sexual relationship with you.
- Be open – it is imperative for you to talk to your partner about the sexually transmitted infections and keeping yourself safe before having sex.
- Get tested – ensure you both get yourself screened to know for sure that neither of you have a STI.
- Get vaccinated – highly effective and safe vaccinations are available for two sexually transmitted diseases: HPV and Hepatitis B. HPV is a very common STI. A vaccination can protect you against these 2 STDs.
- Regular screening – the CDC recommends annual gonorrhea testing for all sexually active women under the age of 25. If you are 25 plus and have multiple sex partners, it is recommended that you get yourself screened annually.
What To Do If You Have Been Diagnosed With Super STD?
If you are diagnosed with a super STD, ensure you take proper medication as prescribed and that your physician screens you for gonorrhea again after you have completed your medication course. The CDC particularly recommends re-testing for the infection 3 months after you had your treatment to ensure it is all gone. However, if you still have symptoms, make sure to talk to your doctor immediately.
It is imperative to learn that HIV, Syphilis and a relatively new STD - Mycoplasma genitalium – are also developing resistance against antimicrobial treatments.
Resistance to antibiotics is an issue noticed with other STDs as well, but it is not of the same level as seen in Gonorrhea. Resistance to HIV medication, particularly in the developing countries, is becoming a major concern but there are still alternative treatments available.
Getting a super STD does not mean that you have gone incurable, but it really is not something that you are going to want to have to deal with it. Make sure you follow all the vital guidelines, consult your physician, take your medication accurately, get yourself screened regularly and stay safe!