The STI Clinic News > Chlamydia and Antibiotic Resistance: Should You Be Worried?
# Sunday, 27 November 2016
Posted: Sunday, 27 November 2016 | Categories: Chlamydia

According to a recent Public Health England report, chlamydia was the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection in 2015. Over the year, 200,288 diagnoses were made, accounting for almost half of all STI diagnoses in England. Despite being one of the most common STIs globally, chlamydia is also one of the easiest to treat – or at least, it is for now. In the past few years, we’ve heard about the emergence of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea. Now it looks as though chlamydia could be headed the same way.

Recent research has shown that chlamydia diagnoses are at an all-time high in the USA, having risen by 6% from 2014 to 2015. Professor David Gondek, an expert in sexually transmitted infections, has elaborated on this rise by explaining that many American STD clinics have faced under-funding and closure in recent years. He has also warned that "As antibiotic resistance continues to spread …our ability to control these diseases will falter".

The question is: just how susceptible is chlamydia to antibiotic resistance and how concerned should we be? To answer these queries, we need to first take a closer look at the specifics of this common sexually transmitted infection.

Facts & Misconceptions About Chlamydia

Chlamydia is spread through infected genital fluids (i.e. semen or vaginal fluid). You can catch it by having unprotected penetrative sex or by coming into contact with infected semen or vaginal fluid. That means you can contract chlamydia through vaginal, anal or oral sex, as well as through sharing sex toys. It’s also possible to become infected through close (but not penetrative) sexual contact. You can even get chlamydia if infected fluids get into your eye. Therefore, the widespread belief that chlamydia can only be caught through penetrative sex is untrue.

Another common misconception surrounding chlamydia is that if it doesn’t cause symptoms, it doesn’t pose a risk to your health. It’s true that chlamydia can be symptomless – in fact, it tends to be symptomless in 70% of women and 50% of men. However, even when it is causing no symptoms, it can still lead to serious health complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease.

When chlamydia does cause symptoms, they include pain when urinating, unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum, pain in the testicles, and – in women – pain in the abdomen and irregular bleeding. Unfortunately, many people who find themselves experiencing these symptoms will be reluctant to seek medical help. That’s not only because there’s still a stigma surrounding STIs, but because many people believe that testing and treatment is invasive and embarrassing.

The truth is that testing for chlamydia is quick and easy, and can even be done at home with a posted test kit. It normally only involves a swab or a urine sample. Once a chlamydia infection has been confirmed, treatment typically only involves one dose of azithromycin antibiotics.

Antibiotic Resistant Chlamydia

Currently, when it comes to global antibiotic resistance, gonorrhoea is what the STI doctors are focusing on. The problem is that the medical community is concerned about chlamydia’s potential to develop resistance to the two main antibiotics used to treat it: azithromycin and doxycycline.

In other words, caution surrounding chlamydia infection is tied up in trying to prevent antibiotic-resistant strains emerging. It’s not always easy to prevent this, but there are some things that can help:

  • Always practise safe sex by using condoms/dental dams when you aren’t 100% certain your partner is free from infection
  • Get regular STI tests if you might be at risk of infection
  • Get tested after unprotected sex even if you are experiencing no symptoms

  • Get tested as soon as you develop symptoms
  • Receive medical treatment as soon as you have been diagnosed
  • Ensure that you take all of your antibiotics

Many people believe that they can become resistant to antibiotics by taking too many. This is untrue; in fact, this practice actually contributes to antibiotic resistance. If you are prescribed treatment for chlamydia, you should make sure that you take all the recommended medication. This will ensure that the infection is eradicated and will prevent any "leftover" bacteria from developing a resistance to the antibiotic.

Learn more about chlamydia and send off for a home test kit from The STI Clinic here.

 

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