UK Gonorrhoea Cases Down 11%

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Health Protection Agency has reported an 11% decrease in the total number of new gonorrhoea infections diagnosed in the UK last year from 18,649 infections in 2007 to 16,629 in 2008 - the lowest number of new infections recorded since 1999.

Syphilis also showed a 4% decrease from 2,633 new cases recorded in 2007 to 2,524 new cases in 2008. Syphilis remains a relatively uncommon infection in the UK, although levels are still considerably higher than 10 years ago.

Overall, STIs increased last year by 0.5%, from a total of 397,909 new cases recorded in 2007 to 399,738 new cases recorded in 2008. This was mostly due to increases in genital herpes and genital warts.

The total number of genital herpes diagnoses increased by 10% from 26,270 new cases recorded in 2007 to 28,957 in 2008. The total numbers of genital warts diagnoses also increased by 3% from 89,515 new cases recorded in 2007 to 92,525 recorded in 2008.

The greatest burden of STIs continues to fall among young people (aged 16 to 24 years), who are disproportionately affected by STIs. While just 12% of the population are aged 16 to 24 years old, this age group accounts for more than half of all new STIs diagnosed in the UK. In 2008 the 16-24 year age-group accounted for:

* 65% of new Chlamydia diagnoses (80,258 cases)
* 55% of new genital warts diagnoses (51,153 cases)
* 47% of new gonorrhoea diagnoses (8,605 cases )
* 44% of new genital herpes diagnoses (12,258 cases)
* 17% of new syphilis diagnoses (456 cases)


Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the Health Protection Agency's Sexually Transmitted Infections Department said: "The decrease we have observed in cases of gonorrhoea and syphilis is an encouraging sign. These are both infections which tend to be geographically clustered and concentrated in specific population core groups, such as black ethnic minorities and men who have sex with men.

"Effective local interventions may therefore have had a significant influence on transmission and frequency of these infections so this decrease can be seen as testament to the hard work of health professionals and colleagues in the NHS.

"However this does not mean we should be complacent. We know that there is still a substantial pool of people who are infected with STIs who remain undiagnosed.

"Unfortunately we have seen increases in other STIs, notably in herpes and genital warts. While the increase in genital herpes diagnoses in the last few years is probably due to greater use of highly sensitive tests detecting more cases, our data clearly show that considerable numbers of people, especially those under 25, are getting infected with an STI."

"Early detection is vital for both men and women as some infections, particularly chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital herpes, can often have no symptoms. This means people may be unaware that they are infected and can pass the infection on to others. Without early treatment both chlamydia and gonorrhoea can lead to complications - when treatment can sometimes be too late to stop permanent damage such as infertility."

"We need to continue to encourage safer sex, including condom use, to help reduce the spread of STIs. We also recommend that anyone with a new or casual sexual partner gets tested regularly at a GUM clinic or through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme. The Agency continues to work alongside the Department of Health, STI charities and sexual health organisations to tackle high infection rates and promote the importance of regular testing and safer sexual behaviour.

"If people think they are at risk of having contracted an STI, or have any symptoms, they should go to a GUM or sexual health clinic for a check-up as soon as possible."