You’ve probably heard of horror stories of men and women contracting STDs from unprotected intercourse. Some might believe them to be myths or rare events but the truth is that these horror stories are very much real, prevalent, and a serious cause of concern if you engage in unsafe sexual practice.
Gonorrhoea – An Insidious Infection
Gonorrhoea is one such sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause distressing complications. It has a high incidence rate worldwide and can affect not only the genitalia but also distant organs such as the anorectal region, joints, the eye and the throat.
The causative agent of this disease is Neisseria Gonorrhoea (N. Gonorrhoea). This bacterium survives only in moist, humid conditions making mucosal surfaces the best habitat for it.
Gonorrhoea, also known as the clap in layman terminology, is an insidious infection that usually does not produce any clear cut symptoms. Some people might experience pain during urination and pus-like discharge from the penis and vagina but these symptoms are non-specific. This makes gonorrhoea an especially dangerous disease because the lack of symptoms leads to the patient remaining undiagnosed and untreated, thus unknowingly spreading to loved ones.
If left untreated, the bacteria can disseminate to other organs and even cause disabling complications like sterility.
What Makes Gonorrhoea PCR Ideal for Diagnosis?
The bacterium can be isolated from a urine sample or a swab taken from the affected region. The bacterium can be gram-stained for identification or cultured in a Thayer Martin agar. Although these inexpensive laboratory methods can correctly identify the bacterium in a male, false positive results can occur in women. In women, the natural bacterial flora comprises of gram negative cocci which can be mistaken for the gram negative cocci, N. gonorrhoea.
In women, culture of the specimen or antibody staining is preferred but because of its slower results, the most widely used diagnostic technique today are the nucleic acid amplification tests.
The gonorrhoea PCR is one such nucleic acid amplification test that can rapidly give accurate results and a diagnosis of whether the person is infected or not. Gonorrhoea PCR works on the principle of gene amplification of the specimen. Neisseria genes are detected and identified quickly.
This technique is also highly specific for the bacterium as well as highly sensitive making it the best diagnostic test practiced in the laboratory.
There’s Always a Silver Lining!
With most bacterial STIs, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Although these infections can be distressing, several treatment options can completely cure the disease.
In a case of gonorrhoea, third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics such as ceftriaxone are given. Patients who are allergic to ceftriaxone or penicillin may be prescribed flouroquinolones like ciprofloxacin or azithromycin and doxycycline instead. The CDC recommends dual therapy in view of possible antimicrobial resistance with ceftriaxone and azithromycin.
And follow up testing performed after one week of completion of the treatment course. In cases of complications, hospitalisation may be required.
STIs and STDs are easily preventable diseases with a little care and safety. The use of condoms is encouraged as well as abstaining from multiple sexual partners. You and your partner should also get regular screening done to rule out a gonorrhoeal infection. If you notice any strange symptoms in the pelvic region, immediately check up with your doctor before it gets too late.
Bacterial STDs are mostly curable unlike viral STDs (HIV, Herpes, papilloma, hepatitis B). Anyone at risk of one STD through unhealthy sexual behaviour, is at risk to other STDs. All sexually active individuals, particularly those with unhealthy sexual behaviour should screen for STDs regularly. Talk to your doctor or local infectious diseases clinic to get tested and protect yourself and your loved ones.
If you’re interested in learning more about gonorrhoea and how it affects you, read on more about it in our biomarker post here!
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