What Is Antibiotic Resistance And How Does It Develop
Antibiotics have been widely used to fight infections, including sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, for more than 75 years. However, the bacteria that cause STDs have fought back. Over time, they have adapted so that a growing number of antibiotics can no longer treat them.
Each year, according to the CDC, at least 2 million people in the U.S. pick up these difficult-to-treat infections, which include a growing number of gonorrhea cases that are resistant to antibiotics.
They develop resistance in two ways, says Jeffrey Klausner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine who has specialized in the research of sexually transmitted diseases.
âThe organism changes its surface so that the antibiotic no longer recognizes it, or it starts to produce new enzymes that break down the antibiotic,â Klausner says. Gonorrhea, he says, has long been known as a bacteria that learns to evade antibiotics.
How Do You Get Chlamydia And Gonorrhea
- Engaging with multiple sexual partners in one year â The more partners who engage with, the more likely you will be exposed to an infected person and contract an STD.
- Having unprotected sex â Condoms can reduce the likelihood of you contracting an STD however, condoms are never 100% effective. If you are concerned you may have an STD, you should get tested regardless of whether you used a condom in your last sexual encounter.
- Younger than 24 â Individuals younger than 24 tend to practice unprotected sex more often than other age groups and are less likely to be tested.
- Previous diagnosis of an STD â Having already contracted an STD increases your bodyâs susceptibility to contracting another STD. It can be common for those who have contracted chlamydia to be at risk for contracting gonorrhea or HIV. If you contract gonorrhea, you are at a greater risk of contracting HIV.
Which Is Worse Chlamydia Or Gonorrhea
Both gonorrhea and chlamydia are highly contagious and can cause long-term damage to your health without treatment. You should avoid both infections as much as possible by practicing safer sex. Get treated immediately if you learn that you or your partner is infected.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The best way to avoid gonorrhea is to use a condom or dental dam during any sexual activity. Safer sex is especially important with gonorrhea since it often doesnt cause symptoms. If theres a chance youve been exposed, dont let embarrassment prevent you from scheduling a visit with your healthcare provider. Get tested immediately. Untreated gonorrhea can cause long-term damage to your health. You shouldnt have to experience these complications, especially when a simple course of antibiotics can cure your infection.
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How Is Chlamydia Treated
Chlamydia can be cleared up with antibiotics in about a week or two. But dont stop taking your medication just because your symptoms improve. Ask your provider about what follow-up is needed to be sure your infection is gone after youve finished taking your medicine.
Part of your treatment should also include avoiding sexual activities that could cause you to get re-infected and ensuring that any sexual partners who may be infected also get treatment. You should:
- Abstain from sex until your infection has cleared up. Starting treatment doesnt mean that youre in the clear. Take all your medication as your provider directs, and avoid all sexual contact in the meantime.
- Contact all sexual partners. Tell any sexual partners from the last 3 months that youre infected so that they can get tested, too.
- Get tested for other STIs . Its common to have multiple STIs, and its important to receive treatment thats tailored to each infection.
Antibiotics can get rid of your infection, but they cant reverse any harm the bacteria may have caused to your body before treatment. This is why its so important to get screened regularly for chlamydia, to see your provider at the first sign of symptoms, and get treatment immediately if youre infected.
Complications From Chlamydia And Gonorrhea
Because these two diseases often have no symptoms, some people go untreated.
Even with those who have symptoms, stigma, access, or other reasons get in the way of getting medical attention.
Not receiving prompt and proper treatment can create serious health problems.
For women, chlamydia and gonorrhea that goes untreated can spread through your uterus to your fallopian tubes.
Fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the uterus and transport fertilized eggs during pregnancy. If untreated bacteria that cause gonorrhea and chlamydia spread to this area, the result is pelvic inflammatory disease , affecting around 5% of women in the US.
Pelvic inflammatory disease, similar to chlamydia and gonorrhea, can have no symptoms or just some pelvic or abdominal pain initially.
Unfortunately, PID can do permanent damage to a womenâs reproductive system, including:
For men, gonorrhea and chlamydia can also lead to serious health problems.
One difference is that chlamydia can also spread to the urethra, causing Non-Gonococcal urethritis, which is an infection of the tube that carries urine resulting in inflammation, pain, and fever.
This cannot be caused by the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. However, for both diseases, it is possible for either to cause:
For both women and men, chlamydia and gonorrhea can develop into a form of arthritis:
Symptoms of DGI include joint pain, fever, and skin rashes or sores.
Women are four times more likely to develop DGI than men.
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What Is The Treatment For Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment. CDC recommends a single dose of 500 mg of intramuscular ceftriaxone. Alternative regimens are available when ceftriaxone cannot be used to treat urogenital or rectal gonorrhea. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease. Antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhea is of increasing concern, and successful treatment of gonorrhea is becoming more difficult. A test-of-cure follow-up testing to be sure the infection was treated successfully is not needed for genital and rectal infections however, if a persons symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, he or she should return to a health care provider to be reevaluated. A test-of-cure is needed 7-14 days after treatment for people who are treated for a throat infection. Because re-infection is common, men and women with gonorrhea should be retested three months after treatment of the initial infection, regardless of whether they believe that their sex partners were successfully treated.
How To Take It
Azithromycin is taken one time orally and can be taken with or without food. Its important to take it as directed by your doctor.
It takes approximately 1 week for azithromycin to cure chlamydia. Avoid having sex while under treatment, as its still possible to pass or worsen the infection during treatment.
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How Long Can You Have Chlamydia Without Knowing
Chlamydia is sometimes called a silent infection because the majority of people who have chlamydia regardless of gender never notice symptoms. People who do notice symptoms often dont recognize the signs that they have chlamydia until a few weeks after theyve been infected. Because chlamydia cases are often asymptomatic, its easy to spread chlamydia to someone else without realizing it. And its easy to miss out on receiving the treatment needed to prevent the serious complications that can result from chlamydia.
Can Chlamydia Turn Into Gonorrhea
No, chlamydia on its own cannot turn into gonorrhea as they are caused by two different bacteria.
It does happen that people contract and carry both chlamydia and gonorrhea bacteria, so you can have them at the same time. Also, having one increases your likelihood of contracting another thus, it is always important to be treated for both.
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How Can You Test For Gonorrhea And Chlamydia At Home
You dont need to visit a lab, clinic, or doctors office to test for STDs. You can take this test in the comfort of your own home thanks to myLAB Box. Simply follow these steps:
- Order your STD panel kit online on the myLAB box website. Dont worry, we even include free shipping! We offer discreet shipping, which means your neighbors wont know you are receiving an STD test in the mail.
- Test yourself at any time and from any place using the easy-to-follow instructions. Your testing kit will include everything you need to complete the test. This part only takes five minutes!
- Send your samples back to the lab with the pre-paid return envelope that comes with your kit.
- Get results online in a matter of days. Results are typically sent within 2-5 days. Once you receive our email, you can log into a secure portal for your private results.
- If you test positive for gonorrhea or chlamydia, you have the option of scheduling a phone consultation with a medical professional to discuss your results. The physician will answer your questions, address your concerns, and help you understand what steps you need to take next.
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How Soon Do Signs Show Up
In men, signs and symptoms usually show up two to 7 days after infection however it can take as long as one month for symptoms to start. Commonly, there are no signs for people infected with gonorrhea 10 to 15 percent of men as well as about 80 percent of ladies might have no symptoms.
Individuals with no signs and symptoms go to risk for developing issues to gonorrhea. These people also spread this infection unwittingly.
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How Common Are These Stds In General How Common Are The Antibiotic
The CDC estimates there are 820,000 cases of gonorrhea in the United States each year. Klausner says that less than 1% fail to respond to the currently recommended treatment. However, he says, resistance to older, less expensive antibiotics is much higher.
Chlamydia is the most common STD in the United States, with nearly 3 million cases occurring annually. So far, no treatment-resistant cases have been reported.
In 2019, nearly 130,000 cases of syphilis were reported in the U.S., with the most infectious types increasing 11% from 2018 to 2019, according to CDC statistics.
The numbers for these three STDs, which are the most common, are at a record high, according to the CDC.
âWeâre absolutely seeing an increase in overall rates of STDs, particularly in younger patients,â says Englund. âHalf of cases are diagnosed in patients aged 15 to 24.â
What Is Chlamydia Vs Gonorrhea
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both common, highly contagious bacterial STIs. Both can be spread through unprotected sexual contact.
These infections are often found in the genitals, but they can also be found in the rectum and throat.
But they are not the same infection, and they are not caused by the same bacteria. Gonorrhea is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium, also known as gonococcus.
Chlamydia is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis.
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When To Contact A Doctor
If you have any of the symptoms described, you should go see a doctor. In general, if you are sexually active and have any usual discharge, burning sensations, or pain while having sex you may have an STD and should get tested.
Additionally, if you are a woman, you should contact a doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms as they can be a sign of a serious complication of chlamydia called pelvic inflammatory disease:
- Fainting or signs of shock
- Serious lower abdominal pain
- Temperature that is higher than 101 F
Should any of these symptoms arise or if you suspect you may have an STD, it is very important to get tested.
Even if you have no symptoms as do the vast majority of those with chlamydia but are sexually active, you should be getting tested regularly, so you do not unknowingly spread the disease.
You can make an appointment with your primary care physician or order STD testing online here.
Milly DawsonSanjai Sinha, MDShutterstock
Chlamydia is easy to cure. If you test positive for chlamydia, basically you take an antibiotic, says Jill Rabin, MD, cochief in the division of ambulatory care for womens health programs and prenatal care assistance program services for Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York.
Your partner must take an antibiotic, too, to keep them from reinfecting you, she says.
What Antibiotics Treat Sexually Transmitted Diseases
CAN ALL STDs BE TREATED USING ANTIBIOTICS?
Sexually Transmitted Diseases or Sexually Transmitted Infections , caused by bacteria, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, are generally easier to treat and are often curable when treated with the right antibiotics. Those caused by viruses, though manageable, are often not curable. These include Herpes and HIV/AIDS and are treated using antiviral drugs instead of antibiotics.
WHEN AND HOW ARE ANTIBIOTICS ADMINISTERED?
Antibiotic therapy is a mainstay in treating sexually transmitted diseases. Depending on the type of infection your healthcare provider may decide what antibiotics are required. These may then be administered through various means of treatment.
- A single injection,
- A course of pills taken over a few days
- And as a cream/ointment locally applied to the infected area.
DO I STILL NEED TO KEEP TAKING ANTIBIOTICS IF MY SYMPTOMS HAVE RESOLVED?
Resistance to antibiotics is real and a prevalent threat in the entire world. It is necessary to complete your antibiotic course for the duration that it is prescribed. Moreover, a resistant infection can be far harder to treat. Even if your symptoms have resolved it is essential that you complete the course of antibiotics as prescribed
WHAT ANTIBIOTICS ARE COMMONLY USED TO TREAT STDs?
The antibiotics prescribed depends on what infection you have. The various antibiotics prescribed for different bacterial STDs are:
HOW TO REMAIN TRULY SAFE FROM STDs?
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What Happens If Chlamydia Goes Untreated
If a person is not treated for chlamydia, complications may occur. Women frequently develop pelvic inflammatory disease . PID can cause infertility , chronic pelvic pain, tubal pregnancies, and the continued spread of the disease. In men, untreated chlamydia can cause urethral infection and complications such as swollen and tender testicles. Chlamydia infection during pregnancy may result in premature rupture of membranes, preterm delivery and possible tubal pregnancy in a small percent of women. In addition, chlamydia can cause conjunctival and pneumonic infection in the newborn. Persons with a chlamydia infection have an increased chance of getting other infections such as gonorrhea or HIV.
How Do The Symptoms Compare
Both men and women can get chlamydia or gonorrhea and never develop any symptoms.
With chlamydia, symptoms may not appear for a few weeks after youve contracted the infection. And with gonorrhea, women may never experience any symptoms at all or may only show mild symptoms, while men are more likely to have symptoms that are more severe.
A couple of the most telltale symptoms of these STIs overlap between the two , such as:
- burning when you pee
- abnormal discharge from the rectum
- pain in the rectum
- bleeding from the rectum
You may also develop symptoms that affect your throat if you engage in oral sex with someone who has one of these conditions. This can cause mouth and throat symptoms, including sore throat and a cough.
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Parents Have A Role In Chlamydia Prevention
Parents can do two main things to help their kids avoid getting chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections , says Dombrowski. These two things are:
What Is The Outlook For People With Gonorrhea
People who get prompt treatment and follow treatment instructions carefully can resume their normal lives. Untreated gonorrhea can cause several long-term health problems. Gonorrhea can even be life-threatening without proper care.
Complications in women
In people assigned female at birth, untreated gonorrhea can:
- Spread to other reproductive organs, including your uterus and fallopian tubes, and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. PID can cause infertility and ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening to the mother and the baby.
- Cause eye problems in infants born to untreated birthing parents, leading to blindness.
- Spread to other body parts, causing swollen and painful joints, liver inflammation, and heart valve and brain damage.
Complications in men
- Inflammation of the testicles.
- Prostate pain and inflammation.
- Other problems if it spreads throughout the body, including swollen and painful joints, liver inflammation, and heart valve and brain damage.
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Diseases Characterized By Urethritis And Cervicitis
100 mg orally twice daily for 7 days
55.50 2.50 to 19.00
IM = intramuscularly.
Reprinted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1998 Guidelines for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 1998 47:1111.
*Mucopurulent cervicitis should be treated according to the guidelines for chlamydial and gonococcal infections.
Estimated cost to the pharmacist based on average wholesale prices in Red book. Montvale, N.J.: Medical Economics Data, 1999. Cost to the patient will be higher, depending on prescription filling fee.
Several regimens for the management of patients with nongonococcal urethritis are outlined in Table 2. Oral azithromycin is recommended as single-dose therapy.57 Improved compliance and the ability to observe therapy are advantages associated with single-dose regimens.