Alert over resistant sexual infection

2010-06-18 00:00

HEALTH experts are on high alert after reports that a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhoea has been detected overseas.

KZN’s strategic health programmes manager, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, warned yesterday at a provincial consultative health forum that the discovery is not to be taken lightly, and might spell disaster for the province.

He said the disease is one of the common sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Recent reports from America and Hawaii have shown that resistant strains have been picked up, especially in homosexual men.

“This disease was previously treated with penicillin and tetracycline, but it later became resistant to these drugs.

“They were replaced with ciprofloxacin (ciprobay), for which resis­tant strains were detected around 2003/2004.

“The regimen was then changed to third-generation cephalosporin ceftriaxone and cefixime,” explained Buthelezi.

He said the reports raise serious concerns in most countries, including South Africa.

Even though there are no cases reported in the country as yet, Dr Buthelezi said the department is on high alert and working with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases on preventative measures.

“We have set up a strong surveillance system for STIs throughout the province to be able to pick up cases of resistance.

“In the interim, we are strengthening the prevention of infections through condom use, and judicious use of antimicrobial agents to prevent resistance,” he said.

Not everyone with STIs is aware that they carry it, which contributes to the spread of infections.

Unknown infections that exist without obvious symptoms can create a serious health disaster, said Buthelezi.

It is reported that pregnant young girls infected with gonorrhoea are at risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility or ectopic pregnancies if not treated.

People infected with the disease are also more likely to become infected with HIV fi they come into contact with the virus.

“We appeal to the people of the province to be very cautious with their sexual behaviour; they must test for STIs to be on the safer side.

“You can get infected without knowing it, but once you discover that you’re infected, then make sure that your partner or partners get treatment, and finish the course of your treatment, as failure to do so might lead to resistance to medication.

“We pray that researchers find a cure for this because we can’t stand another drug-resistant disease. That will mean complete disaster for public health,” he said.

He encouraged women to go for Pap smears as this is one way of detecting infection or, if this does not reveal symptoms, discharge can also be tested.

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