Forget chlamydia and gonorrhoea… there are 4 new STIs you need to worry about, experts warn

Forget chlamydia and gonorrhoea… there are 4 new STIs you need to worry about, experts warn

December 7, 2018

But before you get jiggy underneath the mistletoe, you might be interested to learn that there are a bunch of new STIs doing the rounds.

Former microbiologist, Bryn Nelson explains for Mosaic that it's not just gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis we need to be worried about:

1. Neisseria meningitidis

Up to ten per cent of adults carry N. meningitidis in the back of their nose and throat.

Studies suggest they can potentially transmit the bacteria to partners through oral sex, deep kissing or other kinds of close contact that transmit infected droplets.

It can cause invasive meningitis, a potentially deadly infection of the brain and spinal cord’s protective membranes.

More commonly, it’s gaining a reputation as a cause of urogenital (urinary/genital) infections.

One study of mainly straight men suggested that it's often spread by receiving oral sex.

Another bizarre piece of research from the 1970s described how a male chimpanzee contracted a urethral infection after passing the bacteria from its nose and throat to its own penis through auto-fellatio.

2. Mycoplasma genitalium

M. genitalium, one of the smallest bacteria known.

Although though often symptom-free, it can mimic chlamydia or gonorrhoea with persistent irritation of the urethra and cervix.

Because it may trigger pelvic inflammatory disease in the female reproductive system, it has been associated with infertility, miscarriage, premature birth and even stillbirth.

It infects an estimated one to two per cent of people and is especially common in adolescents and young adults.

While condoms can help prevent infection, researchers have sounded the alarm about M. genitalium’s growing resistance to treatment with the antibiotics azithromycin and doxycycline.

“My concern about this microorganism is that as it becomes ever more resistant, it will become ever more prevalent,” says Matthew Golden, director of the Public Health Seattle and King County HIV/STD Program.

3. Shigella flexneri

Shigellosis (or Shigella dysentery) is passed on by direct or indirect contact with human faeces.

The infection causes severe stomach cramps and explosive bouts of blood- and mucus-filled diarrhoea, which helps perpetuate transmission of the bacteria.

Although the disease is most commonly associated with young children and travellers, researchers began documenting cases of shigellosis in gay and bisexual men in the 1970s.

S. flexneri, scientists believe, started becoming more of a problem with the increase of anal–oral sex and has led to multiple STI outbreaks around the world since then.

Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, says the STI is fast becoming resistant to azithromycin, which is also used to treat gonorrhoea.

Public health agencies are worried about Shigella’s potential to drive the emergence of a gonorrhoea superbug.

For adults who are otherwise healthy, officials now recommend withholding antibiotics and letting shigellosis take its unpleasant but generally limited course.

4. Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

This STI, caused by unusual strains of Chlamydia trachomatis, can cause an “awful infection”, according to Christopher Schiessl, a doctor at the One Medical clinic in San Francisco’s Castro neighbourhood.

LGV may first produce a temporary genital pimple, blister or ulcer, and then invade the body’s lymphatic system.

Rectal infection can mimic inflammatory bowel disease and lead to chronic and severe colon and rectal abnormalities such as fistulas and strictures.

Over the past decade, LGV has become increasingly common in Europe and North America, and has been associated with multiple disease outbreaks, especially among gay and bisexual men.

As with chlamydia, LGV can increase the risk of contracting HIV.

Using condoms during vaginal or anal sex can reduce the risk of infection, while treating LGV may require a three-week course of antibiotics such as doxycycline.

So remember, always use protection – condoms aren't just there to protect you from getting pregnant.

And if you are worried, go to your nearest GUM clinic ASAP.

You can find your local sexual health information and support services here.

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