NEW YORK — Infection rates for sexually transmitted diseases went up for the fourth in a row during 2017, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also told the news service that a new strain antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea could emerge.
“We are sliding backward,” Jonathan Mermin, director of the agency’s national STD center, said in a statement. “It is evident the systems that identify, treat and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to near-breaking point.”
Since 2013, syphilis cases have risen 76 percent to 30,644, while gonorrhea diagnoses have increased 67 percent to 555,608. Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD with almost 1.7 million cases in 2017, up from just over 1.4 million in 2013. Almost half of chlamydia cases were in girls and women ages 15 to 24.
Most STDs go undiagnosed and untreated, the CDC said, which can cause infertility, stillbirth and an increased risk of HIV. The diseases can be treated with antibiotics, but gonorrhea has become resistant to nearly every class of antibiotics except ceftriaxone. Doctors typically prescribe a single shot of ceftriaxone that’s followed by an oral dose of a different antibiotic, azithromycin.
More than 4 percent of gonorrhea samples were resistant to azithromycin in 2017, up from 1 percent in 2013. The CDC is concerned that such resistance could eventually extend to ceftriaxone, which would make the disease untreatable by any current antibiotic.
“We expect gonorrhea will eventually wear down our last highly effective antibiotic, and additional treatment options are urgently needed,” said Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.
Gonorrhea cases in men nearly doubled to 322,169 in 2017 compared with 2013, the CDC said. Among women, gonorrhea diagnoses rose almost 18 percent to 232,587. The disease reached a high point in the late 1970s with more than a million cases annually. The figure had gradually declined until the past four years, according to CDC data.
David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, told Bloomberg the rise is due to stagnant federal funding for prevention efforts, a lack of screening and a decrease in condom use. He cited a lack of awareness that some methods used to prevent other sexually related conditions like IUDs and PrEP don’t protect against common STDs. In fact, Bloomberg reported, funding has remained about the same for 18 years.