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Men, forget gonorrhea, there is ‘flesh-eating’ donovanosis

Health & Science

The rise in the number of new cases is attributed partly due to declining condom use. [Courtesy]

Gonorrhoea, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide, is developing resistance to antibiotics, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned last year. 

Gonorrhoea bacteria are passed from one person to another during sexual contact, including anal, oral or vaginal intercourse.

Drug-resistant gonorrhoea can infect the urethra, throat, rectum and cervix, and symptoms include painful urination, increased discharge and pelvic pain that doesn’t go away with standard treatment. 

 In a report, the world health body said there were 82 million new cases of gonorrhoea globally in 2020, with the most affected being teens and adults aged between 15 and 49 years, mostly in Africa and the West Pacific region.

According to WHO, the rise in the number of new cases is attributed partly due to declining condom use as fear of HIV transmission has waned, failed treatments, poor detection rates, and increased travel as people transfer drug-resistant strains from one state to another.

Dr Dorothy Aywak, a Pharmacist and the Secretary of the Hospital Pharmacy Association of Kenya says most pathogens causing infections are becoming increasingly resistant to the strongest types of antibiotics left to treat them. 

Aywak explained that the bacteria that cause diseases like gonorrhoea “outsmart and evolve to resist” the new class of antibiotics.


Secretary of the Hospital Pharmacy Association of Kenya Dr Dorothy Aywak. [David Gichuru, Standard]

WHO warns that gonococcal infections have critical implications to reproductive, maternal and newborn health including; a fivefold increase of HIV transmission, infertility, ectopic pregnancy and maternal death, first-trimester abortion, severe neonatal eye infections that may lead to blindness” besides high financial costs for individuals and health care systems.

WHO suggests broad drug regulation and control of gonorrhoea through messaging interventions, but as the world grapples with that, the UK is facing a rise in cases of a rare flesh-eating sexually transmitted disease known as donovanosis, also treated using antibiotics.

The Public Health England warn that though infection rates are relatively low, the disease is becoming common in the UK.

Public Health England added most cases of donovanosis occur among people who have traveled to or are from places where the disease is common. 

The STI, which scientists warn affects men more than women, has been dubbed ‘flesh-eating’ as spread of bloody lesions accompanies the infection besides scarring the skin.

Dr Shree Datta from London’s MyHealthCare Clinic told The Sun newspaper that symptoms appear one to 12 weeks after infection, and the ulcers are associated with a higher risk of contracting HIV upon exposure.

Other symptoms include pain, unpleasant smell, itching and bleeding from the sores, destruction of the genital and anal tissue, and an eventual spread to other parts of the body.

Besides Europe, donovanosis has also been recorded in India and Australia.

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