SEXUAL health expert warns an outbreak of drug-resistant gonorrhoea would be likely to hit Australia’s gay community first, as Australian and New Zealand sexual health clinics go on alert.

AAP reports the patient, a tourist from central Europe, was treated in Cairns after travelling there from Sydney, prompting a health alert in July.

The case represented the highest level of drug resistance to gonorrhoea ever reported in Australia, and has caused the New Zealand Sexual Health Society issuing a warning amidst fears of an outbreak there.

While drug-resistant gonorrhoea does not present symptomatically any differently from regular strains, it is both harder to treat and harder to detect—the standard testing method may not pick it up.

Gonorrhoea is a particular problem within gay communities because while gonorrhoea in the penis usually leads to painful symptoms, men may not become aware of and seek treatment for throat and anal gonorrhoea, which is asymptomatic.

In contrast to HIV, gonorrhoea is also highly infectious — oral sex and even non-penetrative contact between penis and anus can transmit the disease.

Director of Sexual Health at the Cairns Sexual Health Service Dr Darren Russell told the Star Observer that while it is unlikely there is much drug-resistant gonorrhoea currently in the community, an outbreak in Australia would probably hit the gay community first.

“It’s a bit like blue jeans and white singlets — they hit the gay community first the straights pick up on the fashion afterwards — and this is likely to be the case in Australia,” he said.

However, Russell argued “alert but not alarmed” was the message for the moment.

“It’s a potential problem at this stage but it’s likely to become a real problem in coming years,” he said.

“With people being able to move around the world so quickly … it becomes very easy for it to be acquired.”

Russell said gay men should seek treatment at a specialised sexual health clinic if their gonorrhoea did not appear to be responding to treatment.

 

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