Nurses must educate patients about antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea

Concerns have been raised that the disease may become resistant to two drugs

Nurses must be ‘vigilant and meticulous’ in their work amid the current outbreak of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea, a senior nurse has said.

Public Health England (PHE) has reported that a powerful strain of the virus is spreading across the country, with 34 cases confirmed so far. 

The outbreak first emerged in Leeds and the north of England in 2014, but it has now spread to the West Midlands and the south of England, including London.

The cases show high-level resistance to azithromycin, an antibiotic that is used in conjunction with another antibiotic, ceftriaxone, to treat the disease. 

A report by PHE said: ‘If azithromycin becomes ineffective against gonorrhoea, there is no "second lock" to prevent or delay the emergence of ceftriaxone resistance, and gonorrhoea may become untreatable.’

Glyndwr University lecturer and researcher Edna Astbury-Ward, who has 30 years' of experience working in sexual health, said: ‘The main concern is that the sexual partners of those who are infected may currently be asymptomatic and therefore pass the disease on to new partners unwittingly.’

Advising nurses to be vigilant with regard to tracing contacts of infected patients, Dr Astbury-Ward acknowledged that this may be difficult because ‘people are often reluctant to reveal who their sexual partners are’.

She stressed the need for nurses to educate patients about the disease, which can occur as a result of unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Dr Astbury-Ward also urged nurses to remind infected patients to practice safe sex using condoms to prevent the spread of the disease, which can cause infertility.

‘There is concern that this disease could spread rapidly among the whole population,’ she added.

The PHE report found that initial cases were among heterosexuals, but evidence suggests it has also spread to gay men.

Read the PHE report here

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