Home Men Health Gonorrhea cases surge 64% post-COVID lockdown in England, highlighting unintended STI suppression

Gonorrhea cases surge 64% post-COVID lockdown in England, highlighting unintended STI suppression

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Gonorrhea cases surge 64% post-COVID lockdown in England, highlighting unintended STI suppression

In a recent study published within the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers analyzed data from the Genitourinary Medicine Clinic Activity Dataset STI Surveillance System, an English surveillance system monitoring sexually transmitted infections (STIs) inside the country. Their findings revealed that in just a little over a 12 months following the relief of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related restrictions, positive Gonorrhea diagnoses increased by almost 64% (13,715 to 22,471) despite increases in STI testing rising by only 5.6%. These findings suggest that COVID-19 restrictions and its associated social distancing can have unintentionally suppressed the transmission of Gonorrhea and other STIs and highlight the necessity for policy measures geared toward stopping their resurgence following the pandemic.

Dispatch: Rebound of Gonorrhea after Lifting of COVID-19 Preventive Measures, England. Image Credit: Giovanni Cancemi / Shutterstock

Gonorrhea and the unexpected advantages of the lockdown

Gonorrhea, colloquially often known as ‘the clap,’ is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) attributable to the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. While symptoms include pain or a burning sensation during urination, testicular (in men), or vaginal (in women) discomfort, discharge, or bleeding, the disease is usually asymptomatic and undetectable with out a clinical diagnosis.

Gonorrhea is probably the most common STIs on the earth today, with research estimating that 0.8% of all men and 0.6% of all women live with the disease. Between 33 and 106 million novel incidences of the disease occur annually, though most are mild and treatable with antibiotics similar to ceftriaxone by injection and azithromycin orally.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic forced quite a few national governments, including those of the UK (UK), to impose restrictions and ‘lockdowns,’ legally enforcing social distancing to forestall the spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus. An unintentional side-effect of those restrictions can have been the prevention of STI transmission through disruptions in medical health services because of the overwhelming variety of COVID-19 cases that will have did not report these positive outcomes.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused a considerable disruption of sexual health services (SHS) in England (including reduced testing), contributing to a 33.5% decrease in recent sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses in 2020 (n = 311,480) compared with 2019 (n = 468,260).”

Following the lifting of England’s lockdown restrictions in July 2021, a rebound in SHS occurred, accounting for an almost 24% increased STI diagnoses rate (2022) in comparison with through the lockdown (2021). Alarmingly, positive gonorrhea diagnoses increased by greater than 50% in comparison with COVID-19 times, but possible modes of transmission and at-risk populations remained hitherto unexplored.

Concerning the study

In the current study, researchers use data from the Genitourinary Medicine Clinic Activity Dataset STI Surveillance System to elucidate trends in gonorrhea testing and diagnosis in England following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Data from January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2022, was collected and analyzed, correcting for patients’ anthropometric and socio-demographic variables (age, sex, and sexual orientation).

Study findings

The current study findings reveal that while testing for Gonorrhea increased by 5.6% following the rebound of SHS, novel gonorrhea diagnoses increased by 63.8% in comparison with pandemic times. Study results highlight that individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 are at the very best risk of contracting the disease (141% increase) following restriction lifting. Alarmingly, the incidence of Gonorrhea was highest (229.0% increase) in individuals between the ages of 19 and 20 years.

Stratification of findings based on sexual orientation revealed that homosexual and bisexual men presented the very best prevalence, and homosexual women presented the very best novel incidence of the disease (104.7% increase; 2,577 to five,274) between 2021 and 2022. Geographical stratification demonstrated that gonorrhea incidence increases were most important in North East England (194%) and South West England (226.0%). Nonetheless, all areas across the country presented statistically substantial increases in comparison with COVID-19-restriction times.

Total number of gonorrhea diagnoses and tests and percent test positivity in study of rebound of gonorrhea after lifting of COVID-19 preventive measures in England, January 1, 2019–December 31, 2022. A) Total number of diagnoses and tests. Bars indicate the total number of gonorrhea diagnoses; purple line indicates the total number of gonorrhea tests. B) Percent positivity of gonorrhea tests. Q, quarter. Scales for the y-axes differ substantially to underscore patterns but do not permit direct comparisons.

Total variety of gonorrhea diagnoses and tests and percent test positivity in study of rebound of gonorrhea after lifting of COVID-19 preventive measures in England, January 1, 2019–December 31, 2022. A) Total variety of diagnoses and tests. Bars indicate the entire variety of gonorrhea diagnoses; purple line indicates the entire variety of gonorrhea tests. B) Percent positivity of gonorrhea tests. Q, quarter. Scales for the y-axes differ substantially to underscore patterns but don’t permit direct comparisons.

Conclusions

The current study reveals the STI-preventing side-effect of COVID-19-related restrictions and highlights the alarming resurgence of STIs, particularly Gonorrhea, following the lifting of those lockdowns. It further identified the age groups (15-24) and sexual orientations (men having sex with men, and ladies having sex with women) at highest risk of contracting the bacterial infection following restrictions removal.

“It stays to be seen whether increases in gonorrhea diagnoses will probably be short-lived due to restrictions removal, whether pre–COVID-19 pandemic diagnoses levels will resume, or whether one other trend will probably be observed. Continued close surveillance, a greater understanding of the aspects resulting in the rise in gonorrhea diagnoses, and public health messaging (particularly to young individuals) are needed to focus efforts on gonorrhea transmission control and prevention.”

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