What is antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea?

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed that between December 2021 and February 2022, 4 cases of antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea have been found in the UK.

Antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea cannot be treated using the antibiotic ceftriaxone, which is given to people who test positive for the infection. Ceftriaxone is the last treatment we have left to manage gonorrhoea. Over time it has become resistant to all the types of antibiotics that have been used to treat it in the past.

Should I be worried?

The UKHSA says that it’s too soon to know if these 4 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. The three other cases, also people in their 20s, are still waiting for tests of cures to see if their treatment has worked.

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 (and ensure you test accurately - read our guide on correct testing. 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.

Read more:

Helen Burkitt, Senior Sexual Health Nurse at SH:24
Written by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse