15 May 2019

Study reveals new mechanism of gonorrhoea transmission

A/Prof Eric Chow from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre was in the Washington Post recently following publication of a paper on which he was lead author. The paper, published in Sexually Transmitted Infections, found that kissing with tongue may be a way to transmit oropharyngeal gonorrhoea, or oral gonorrhoea, particularly among gay and bisexual men. The study team featured a number of other Central Clinical School researchers.

Understanding the mechanisms of spread and treatment are increasingly important about this infection which continues to spread and is becoming more and more resistant to treatment.

The condition is largely considered a sexually transmitted infection; spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex. These results turn this long-held belief on its head, and may provoke fear about the infection being more easily transmissible than thought.

Despite this, A/Prof Chow is upbeat. He said, “We know it’s unlikely that people will stop kissing, and our team is already doing a clinical trial examining whether daily use of mouthwash could prevent gonorrhoea. If it works, it could be a simple and cheap intervention for everyone.”

Chow EPF, Cornelisse VJ, Williamson DA, et al Kissing may be an important and neglected risk factor for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea: a cross-sectional study in men who have sex with men Sex Transm Infect Published Online First: 09 May 2019. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2018-053896

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