What is antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea?

Antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea is a gonorrhoea infection that cannot be cured with the antibiotic ceftriaxone, which is usually used to treat this infection.

The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea change quickly to become resistant to antibiotics. The infection has already become resistant to most antibiotics used to treat it in the past.

A small number of cases of antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea have been found in the UK.

Should I be worried?

The UKHSA says that it’s too soon to know if these cases are the start of a long-term trend. And the first person who was found with the strain - a man in his 20s in London - has now been treated successfully.

But we do know that STIs like gonorrhoea are on the rise in general. So it’s a good idea to take your sexual health seriously, use condoms to stop the spread of STIs and get tested regularly.

How can I reduce my risk of gonorrhoea?

To reduce the risk of gonorrhoea and other STIs:

  • if you develop symptoms that could be signs of an STI, take a break from sex and get tested

  • always use condoms with new partners to reduce risk of contracting or transmitting gonorrhoea and other STIs. Make sure you use condoms correctly and consistently.

  • get tested regularly. We recommend testing when you change partners. If you’re changing partners regularly, we advise routine testing every 3 months, or yearly if you’re not

  • if a sexual partner tells you they’ve tested positive for infection, get tested - read our guide on when to do a test. Or you can get treated as a contact of infection if appropriate. Contact your local sexual health clinic to find out more

  • ask the people you have sex with to get tested too. Don’t rely on someone else’s negative test results as an assurance you are also negative.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhoea?

Often people infected with STIs will have no symptoms at all. This is why it’s important to test regularly. You might experience:

  • a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis

  • pain when peeing.

For people with uteruses:

  • pain in your lower abdomen, or unusual bleeding, such as bleeding after sex or bleeding between periods.

There may also be pain or discomfort in the rectum.

If you do have gonorrhoea or another STI, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible. Untreated STIs can lead to more complicated infections and cause serious, long term health problems.

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Helen Burkitt, Senior Sexual Health Nurse at SH:24
Written by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse
Reviewed by Dr Paula Baraitser. Medical Director
Last updated at: 24 August 2022