Oral Sex Could Spread Antibotic-Resistant Gonorrhea Superbug

Health officials have been sounding the alarm about a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea, and data from around the world now suggests that oral sex could be the means of transmission of the so-called superbug.

Gonorrhea (i.e., the gonococcus microbe) is said to be the second most commonly reported infectious disease in the US, and cephalosporins — the class of drugs most commonly used to treat it — are apparently no longer effective against the infection. As a result, scientists fear a global sexually transmitted gonorrhea epidemic.

The New Yorker discusses the connection between gonorrhea (a.k.a. “the clap”) and oral sex:

“A driving factor behind the rise in gonorrhea infections, as well as the trend toward total antibiotic resistance, is our complacent attitude toward oral sex. Saliva contains enzymes that destroy gonorrhea, so kissing and cunnilingus don’t spread it. But fellatio, which brings the tip of the urethra near the pharynx, carries a high risk of infecting one partner or the other. According to Dr. Peter Rice, a gonorrhea expert at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, fellatio ‘is the only predictable way to transmit gonococcal infection to the pharynx.'”

“The emerging drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are most common among commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men, perhaps because these groups are more likely to be infected repeatedly. But the wider picture is more complex … The adaptive nature of the gonococcus, coupled with the prevalence of unprotected oral sex, all but insures that drug-resistant gonorrhea will eventually take root in the general heterosexual population.”

Another scientist quoted by The New Yorker ominously adds that “the throat is where ‘the gonococcus is having sex, so to speak, with other bacteria.'”

Do you think this apparent threat to public health from oral sex will change personal behavior and/or “complacent” attitudes toward sexually transmitted diseases?