by Joseph Mercola
May 29, 2018
Three of the more commonly transmitted diseases have
reached record levels in the U.S. Nationwide, there
were 1.6 million cases of chlamydia in 2016, 470,000
cases of gonorrhea and 28,000 new cases of syphilis
Mutations of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria that
causes gonorrheal infections have led to a high
incidence of antibiotic resistance, making it
extremely difficult to treat
Research looking at syphilis samples from the U.S.,
South America, Europe, Africa and Australasia found
both of the two main strains of syphilis have
developed antibiotic resistance
STD prevalence in California has increased by 45
percent in the past five years. In 2017, 300,000
cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were
reported, 54 percent of cases occurring in those
under the age of 25
The number of babies born infected with syphilis
quadrupled, and with it, stillbirths spiked as well.
Of the 278 congenital syphilis cases on record in
California last year, 30 resulted in stillbirth,
which is triple the number of syphilis-related
stillbirths reported in 2016
Cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
were in decline until the 1970s, at which point the trend reversed.
What's worse, in more
recent years, some of the STDs typically requiring antibiotics have
become resistant to the drugs and have turned deadly. No less than
three of the more commonly transmitted diseases have now reached
record levels in the U.S.
Nationwide, there were 1.6 million cases of chlamydia in 2016,
470,000 cases of gonorrhea and 28,000 new cases of syphilis.
Although all three
have the potential of being cured with antibiotics, mutations of the
bacteria that cause these infections have led to increasing
Becoming Increasingly Antibiotic-Resistant
For example, syphilis is resistant to azithromycin, the second drug
of choice for this infection, 2 and recent research
3 looking at syphilis samples from the U.S., South America,
Europe, Africa and Australasia found both of the two main strains of
syphilis have developed antibiotic resistance.
The Street Strain 14 (SS14), which is a newer strain, appears
to be far more drug-resistant than the older Nichols strain.
A whopping 90 percent of
the SS14 samples had drug resistance genes. There's also evidence
showing all three STDs are developing multidrug resistance
Gonorrhea is already
resistant to all antibiotics that have been used against it, and is
rapidly developing resistance against cephalosporins, the drug of
Skyrocket in California
According to a recent report 4 by the California Department of Public
Health, STD prevalence in the state has increased by 45 percent in
the past five years alone. 5,6
In 2017, 300,000 cases of
chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported, with 54 percent of
cases occurring in those under the age of 25.
In addition to a
decline in condom use, lack of sex education and fewer STD clinics
due to budget cuts, state health officials believe internet dating
apps have played a significant role in this troubling trend.
As noted by James Watt, chief of the division of communicable
disease control for the Department of Health,
"The internet allows
for a broadening of sexual networks, and the broader that gets
the more opportunity you have for sexually transmitted diseases
disproportionately affected, with chlamydia and gonorrhea rates five
times higher than Caucasians. They also have double the rate of
Distinct variations can also be seen between the sexes. Chlamydia
rates are 60 percent higher among women than men, and while syphilis
is still more prevalent among men, it has suddenly skyrocketed among
women, increasing sevenfold between 2012 and 2016.
As noted by Watt, this is of great concern, as,
"syphilis can have
long-term complications like blindness, hearing loss and other
Men, meanwhile, have
twice the rate of gonorrhea than women.
Both gonorrhea and
syphilis are more prevalent among bisexual and homosexual men
because these diseases are most readily transmitted during
Caused by Syphilis Infection Spiked Last Year
The number of babies born infected with syphilis contracted from
their mother has also quadrupled and, with it, stillbirths have
spiked as well. 7
Of the 278 congenital
syphilis cases on record in California last year, 30 resulted in
stillbirth, which is triple the number of syphilis-related
stillbirths reported in 2016.
Aside from stillbirth, congenital syphilis can also result in
permanent disabilities, including blindness. Other STDs can also
wreak havoc on a woman's reproductive health.
Both chlamydia and
gonorrhea can result in infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
If you have an STD, make
every effort to avoid pregnancy until you have been successfully
treated and have been cleared by your doctor.
Increasingly Resistant to Treatment
Gonorrhea in particular has become resistant to antibiotic
According to Dr.
Teodora Wi, medical officer of human reproduction at the World
Health Organization (WHO), 8
"The bacteria that
cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new
class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve
to resist them."
gonorrhea first emerged when I was in medical school in the late
By the 1980s,
antibiotics penicillin and tetracycline were no longer effective
against it. Next, gonorrhea resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics
emerged, leaving only one class of antibiotic drugs, cephalosporins,
left to treat it.
Now, as you might
suspect, gonorrhea is fast becoming resistant to cephalosporins as
In 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
estimated about one-third of gonorrhea cases were resistant to at
least one antibiotic. At the time, treatment guidelines were updated
to include a dose of the antibiotic ceftriaxone along with a second
As of 2018, the CDC still
recommends this dual therapy to treat gonorrhea. 9
The two-pronged treatment initially appeared to be working, pushing
resistance rates from 1.4 percent in 2011 to 0.4 percent in 2013.
However, CDC data published in JAMA in 2015, 10 suggested
improvements in susceptibility might turn out to be short-lived,
which indeed turned out to be the case.
Between 2013 and 2014
alone, cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea suddenly doubled.
The CDC now notes that:
developed resistance to nearly all of the antibiotics used for
its treatment. We are currently down to one last recommended and
effective class of antibiotics, cephalosporins, to treat this
This is an urgent
public health threat because gonorrhea control in the United
States largely relies on our ability to successfully treat the
Gonorrhea Is a Global Problem
In the U.K., the first case of gonorrhea resistant to both
ceftriaxone and azithromycin was reported this year. 12
The man was diagnosed in
early 2018, and it's believed he contracted the infection via sexual
activity with a person in Southeast Asia about a month prior.
Gwenda Hughes, consultant scientist and head of the sexually
transmitted infection section at Public Health England (PHE),
said in a statement, 13
"[The infection]… is
very resistant to the recommended first-line treatment… This is
the first time a case has displayed such high-level resistance
to both of these drugs and to most other commonly used
According to WHO, 14
"Currently, in most
countries, extended-spectrum cephalosporins are the only single
antibiotic that remain effective for treating gonorrhea. But
resistance to cefixime - and more rarely to ceftriaxone - has
now been reported in more than 50 countries."
Adding to the problem is
that drugs in the pipeline to treat drug-resistant gonorrhea are few
and far between.
Only three new candidate
drugs are in various stages of development.
Although gonorrhea often causes no symptoms, it can lead to a
burning or painful sensation when urinating, white, green or yellow
discharge from the penis, increased vaginal discharge, painful or
swollen testicles in men and vaginal bleeding between periods in
Rectal infections with
gonorrhea may lead to anal discharge, itching, soreness and bleeding
or painful bowel movements.
If left untreated (or if the disease progresses because it's
resistant to treatment), gonorrhea can lead to pelvic
inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can cause:
In men, gonorrhea can
lead to pain in the tubes attached to the testicles, which can lead
In addition, if gonorrhea
spreads to your blood or joints it can be life-threatening, and it
also increases your risk of contracting HIV.
If you're pregnant and
you pass gonorrhea to your baby during childbirth, it can lead to
blindness, joint infection or a life-threatening blood infection in
are Not the Answer
At present, vaccines are available against HPV, hepatitis A and
hepatitis B infection.
A number of other
vaccines against STDs are also under development, including vaccines
against HIV and herpes simplex virus. Last year, researchers
reported that a vaccine against meningitis appears to help prevent
While causing different
diseases, the bacteria
Neisseria gonorrhoeae (which causes
Neisseria meningitidis (which causes meningococcal
disease) are in fact related.
As reported by STAT News:
conducted in New Zealand, found that the gonorrhea rate among
teens and young adults there who had received a meningitis B
vaccine during an emergency campaign in the early 2000s was
significantly lower than the rate seen in people of the same age
who weren't vaccinated.
Researchers in Quebec say they saw the same phenomenon after a
meningitis outbreak there, and previously published data from
Cuba and Norway also hint of the vaccine's unexpected benefit…
'While it is
still very early days, these findings represent a positive
step in the search for a vaccine against this common and
distressing disease that is increasingly resistant to
...said Robin Gaitens, a spokeswoman for
GSK, which owns the product that contains this meningitis
However, while that may
sound like promising news, it's important to realize that vaccines
push pathogens to evolve in the same way antibiotics do.
As noted by Paul Ewald,
an evolutionary biologist at the University of Louisville,
"If you don't have
these pathogens evolving in response to vaccines, then we really
don't understand natural selection."
So, ultimately, STD
vaccines are not the answer to this growing crisis of drug-resistant
Disease Evolving in Response to Vaccination
recounts the research being done on chickens
by Andrew Read, a disease ecologist at the Pennsylvania State
University Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics: 16
"Read and his
colleagues are studying how the herpes-virus that causes
disease - a highly contagious, paralyzing and ultimately deadly
ailment that costs the chicken industry more than $2 billion a
year - might be evolving in response to its vaccine…
Marek's disease has
been sickening chickens globally for over a century; birds catch
it by inhaling dust laden with viral particles shed in other
The first vaccine was introduced in 1970, when the disease was
killing entire flocks. It worked well, but within a decade, the
vaccine mysteriously began to fail; outbreaks of Marek's began
erupting in flocks of inoculated chickens.
A second vaccine was
licensed in 1983 in the hopes of solving the problem, yet it,
too, gradually stopped working.
Today, the poultry industry is on its third vaccine. It still
works, but Read and others are concerned it might one day fail,
too - and no fourth-line vaccine is waiting.
Worse, in recent
decades, the virus has become more deadly…
The big question is
whether the vaccines directly incited these changes or the
evolution happened, coincidentally, for other reasons, but Read
is pretty sure the vaccines have played a role."
Vaccines Can Promote Virulence
In a 2015 study, 17 Read's team took 200 chickens and
vaccinated half of them against Marek's disease using the current
All were then infected
with Marek pathogens ranging from mild to virulent. Over the course
of the birds' lives, the vaccinated birds shed far more of the most
virulent strains, while the unvaccinated ones shed far more of the
least virulent strains.
In other words, the findings suggest the vaccine actually encourages
the proliferation and spread of the most dangerous viral strains,
which eventually can lead to a virus capable of evading
vaccine-primed immune responses.
According to the authors:
"Vaccines that keep
hosts alive but still allow transmission could thus allow very
virulent strains to circulate in a population.
Here we show
experimentally that immunization of chickens against Marek's
disease virus enhances the fitness of more virulent strains,
making it possible for hyperpathogenic strains to transmit.
Immunity elicited by direct vaccination or by maternal
vaccination prolongs host survival but does not prevent
infection, viral replication or transmission, thus extending the
infectious periods of strains otherwise too lethal to persist.
Our data show that
anti-disease vaccines that do not prevent transmission can
create conditions that promote the emergence of pathogen strains
that cause more severe disease in unvaccinated host."
A similar situation
occurred with the human
pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine.
Whooping cough is
conferred by the
Bordetella pertussis bacterium. The old vaccine,
which was made with whole killed bacteria, was replaced with an
acellular vaccine due to severe side effects.
However, the new
acellular vaccine, made from outer membrane proteins of the
bacterium, quickly waned, triggering global epidemics.
In 2001, researchers proposed the resurgence of whooping cough might
be due to the evolution of the bacteria,
caused by widespread
In the end, whether we're
fighting pathogens using drugs like antibiotics or vaccines,
pathogens that aren't killed outright tend to strengthen over time,
and we now know there are genetic components that allow pathogens to
share genetic resistance material even between different species - a
fact that raises the stakes rather significantly.
Using Safe Sex Practices
All sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea, can be
prevented via safe sex practices, such as being in a mutually
monogamous relationship with a partner who does not have gonorrhea,
and using condoms.
Even if you're in a
mutually exclusive relationship, continue using condoms (for all
forms of sex: vaginal, anal and oral) until both partners have been
tested for STDs and been found clear, and remember that condom use
does not prevent all STDs.
Herpes and HPV, for example, can be spread through skin contact even
when using a condom.
Other prevention methods
include 19 sexual abstinence (including vaginal, oral and
anal), and if being sexually active with more than one partner, get
tested and share test results with each other.
Last but not least, if
you test positive for an STD, make sure you get treatment, and avoid
pregnancy until your infection has fully cleared.