Study Finds Some Patients Getting Gonorrhea From Kissing Only

May 25, 2019
by John Kelly, MD
Study Finds Some Patients Getting Gonorrhea From Kissing Only

A new study has debunked the theory that you can’t get an STD from kissing. Researchers have found that the gonorrhea strain is transmittable through kissing.

Australian researchers discovered French kissing is the way in which a person can develop oral gonorrhea – more in bisexual and gay men. While it’s not a well-studied idea, an expert said the notation was significant in understanding the STD, especially in the wake of more people becoming infected with it and its resistance to antibiotic treatments.

Columbia University Medical Center Department of Urology Nurse Practitioner Anthony Lutz said he’s not seen these cases personally, but the suggestion that mouth-to-mouth transmission is happening is going around the medical community.

Lutz said it’s important deep into to find out for sure so that medical personnel can screen patients better and get them the necessary treatment.

Gonorrhea, which is the result of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, is transmitted by way of having vaginal or oral sex, infecting the throat, rectum and genitals. Oral gonorrhea, which public health officials, say is not a kissing disease is the result of performing oral sex on someone who is infected.

Researchers looked at questionaries from over 3,000 bisexual and gay men from a Melbourne sexual health center and found that six percent of them had been diagnosed with oral gonorrhea.

The men said they have – an average – of one sex-only partner, four kissing-only partners and five kissing with sex partners in the last three months.

According to the research, the higher number of kissing-only and kissing-with-sex partner were at a higher risk of being diagnosed with oral gonorrhea.

The study’s lead author Eric Chow said more people a person kissed increased their chances of developing throat gonorrhea, regardless if they had sex or not with it.

This information is a direct challenge to the widely accepted thought of gonorrhea’s transmission routes where the penis was the source of the transmission for throat infections.

The CDC and medical professionals have become quite concerned with gonorrhea as there has been a significant increase in the number of infections in it and other STDs throughout the world. Even more troubling is the rise in the number of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. In the U.S. alone, there was a 67 percent increase in gonorrhea cases between 2013 and 2017.

And, some gonorrhea strains are resistant to the antibiotics people get for the infection.

CDC Division of STD Prevention Director Gail Bolan said the agency believes gonorrhea will eventually become resistant to even the most effective antibiotic, which is why more treatment options need to be developed. She said it’s imperative the medical community work hard to find infected patients and stop the resistance.

According to Lutz, mouth-to-mouth oral gonorrhea transmission studies is challenging because it would be hard to find the people kissing-only partner who would want to talk about it. It would even harder to stop the transmission, he said.

Lutz said if the Australia findings are true, the very idea of it could cause panic. After all, kissing is common. This is why it’s important to get additional research done, so medical professionals and their patients have a better understanding of the disease.

Chow said it’s not likely people will stop kissing, but his team is looking at a clinical trial in which daily mouthwash use could stop gonorrhea from spreading. If so, then the intervention method could be a cheap treatment.


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