Every now and again, the media likes to run with a time-honored story: GONORRHEA OMG YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE. The latest round of gonorrhea fear-mongering started with a strain of the STI called HO41. First discovered in a female sex worker in Japan, HO41 was thought to be in North America. Everyone freaked out. But then it was proven that it really wasn't, so everyone calm down.
Like regular gonorrhea, HO41 can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility, and increases the chances of someone infected of contracting HIV/AIDS. If you don't realize you have gonorrhea or don't cure it, one of the above will likely happen to you. This is a well-documented and scientifically proven pathology of the bacteria.
Now, some random doctor named Alan Christianson decided to put his own spin on the whole thing: "This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," said Christianson, a "naturopathic" doctor based in Arizona. FYI, naturopathic doctors believe in alternative medicine, focusing on a belief in vitalism, an energy contained in bodily processes that naturopathic doctors believe cures several conditions. I'm not hating on naturopathy, but almost every article that quoted Christianson failed to elaborate on his holistic approaches. "Getting gonorrhea from this strain might put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days," Christianson continued. "This is very dangerous."
It is very dangerous, but the opinion of one holistic doctor claiming that HO41 might be worse than AIDS in the short run, with results quite similar to other strains of gonorrhea, isn't really our cue to start freaking out about getting something worse than AIDS.
What should call for alarm is the drug-resistant nature of this and other new strains of gonorrhea. A study released in January in the Journal of the American Medical Association found 6.7 percent of patients with gonorrhea at a Toronto clinic had the disease after cephalosporins, the last effective oral antibiotic used to treat gonorrhea. The CDC's director of sexually transmitted disease prevention program stated in February that our last line of antibiotic defenses were becoming less and less effective in fighting the disease.
Dr. Arjun Srinivasan of the CDC stated that the reason why these new strains should ring some alarms is simple cases of gonorrhea that might have been treated by a round of oral treatment are requiring more intensive solutions:
The challenge that we face is that we are running out of the first-line treatment options that we like to use… As we run out of those oral agents, people might need intravenous therapy for treatment of simple gonorrhea infections that in the past could have been treated with an oral antibiotic.
The rise in antibiotic use has created resistant strains of countless bacteria, and that bastard gonorrhea is no different. But also, it is not worse than AIDS, so stop freaking out about that.
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