Gonorrhoea, other than an ill-advised inclusion in spelling bees, is also a notorious venereal disease. A bacterium, formally known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae is the subject of said notoriety. Like most bacterial STD’s, Gonorrhoea steadily increased in prevalence alongwith civilization, with the earliest mentions of its existence dating back to the days of the Old Testament.
In relatively more recent times, it peaked amongst the bustle of budding modernity, and alongwith the other common STIs such as chlamydia, syphilis and the like, spreading with abandon. This burst in activity, naturally mostly seen through brothels, or ‘clapiers’ in the French, may have had a hand in the innocuous seeming nickname of gonorrhoea, the clap.
It saw a sharp decline soon after, with the discovery of penicillin, which was extremely effective initially as a cure. However, over time, antibiotic resistant strains of gonorrhoea have survived, and in the current scenario, it is with them that we have to deal. Prompt detection and treatment is therefore imperative in order to slow the inevitable march toward the point where resistance may overpower our curative abilities.
The infection is usually spread via sexual intercourse, although rarely children seem to be able to pick the disease up by sharing objects that have come in contact with an infected person (towels, clothing, baths and the ilk.) A mother may transmit the infection to her child during childbirth, and this often infects the infants’ eyes, which may develop into blindness, if not diagnosed and treated early.
A person who was previously treated for gonorrhoea is not immune to further infections and may re-acquire the infection by contact with an afflicted individual.
The flummoxing bit about gonorrhoea is that many people do not have any symptoms of the disease. About half the affected women show no symptoms, whereas the others may have pain in the lower abdomen, or during intercourse, as well as vaginal discharge.
Amongst men, the most common complaint is discharge with or without a burning sensation. A throat infection is sometimes seen associated with oral sex. Most symptoms appear 4 to 6 days after the infection has occurred.
Traditionally gonorrhoea was treated with gram-staining and culture methods, but these days, PCR based testing methods are more common. Cultures are still done to determine resistance traits in the particular infective strain.
The treatment of gonorrhoea is with antibiotics. In the early days, penicillin sufficed, however now, a combination of antibiotics in preferred. The important catch here is to round up and treat all the secual partners of the patient simultaneously, to prevent further spread in society. To prevent blindness, newborn babies are given erythromycin ointment, however, the best method is to treat the underlying gonorrhoea.
If left untreated, complications may arise in various other parts of the body due to the dissemination of the bacterium within it.
The prevention of gonorrhoea is simple, the practice of safe sex. Furthermore, regular testing for re-infections and treating the partners of infected persons in absence of any symptoms does well to reduce the prevalence of gonorrhoea.
The disease is not terribly complex, and easily warded off against. However, that does not mean that we should be lax against it. The danger of highly-resistant strains grows greater every day. Healthy practices can work wonders against such dark futures.
Delve deeper into our series on STD Awareness.