Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease, sometimes referred to as “the clap.” It usually causes pain and other symptoms in your genital tract. Also, it can also cause problems in your rectum, throat, eyes, or joints. Both men and women can get it, though men get it more often than women.
Until now, it has been thought that the Gonorrhea spread through having sex with an infected partner. But a new study suggests that the disease can get spread by kissing with the infected person also.
Scientists in Australia recently found that kissing with tongue may be a way to transmit oropharyngeal gonorrhea, or oral gonorrhea, particularly among gay and bisexual men. However, the idea has not been well studied, but it could be important for understanding gonorrhea as it continues to spread and become more resistant to treatment.
For the study, scientists studied questionnaires from more than 3,000 gay and bisexual men at a sexual health center in Melbourne, 6 percent of whom tested positive for oral gonorrhea, about their recent sexual history.
Men reported that they had had an average of four kissing-only partners, five kissing-with-sex partners and one sex-only partner over the past three months. The researchers found that those with a higher number of kissing-only and kissing-with-sex partners were at a greater risk of testing positive for oral gonorrhea.
Eric Chow, the lead author of the study said, “We found that the more people an individual kissed also placed them at an increased risk of having throat gonorrhoea, irrespective of whether sex occurred with the kissing. This data challenges the accepted traditional transmission routes of gonorrhea held for the past 100 years, where a partner’s penis was thought to be the source of throat infection.”
“We found after we controlled statistically for the number of men kissed, that ‘the number of men someone had sex with but did not kiss was not associated with throat gonorrhoea.”
According to the CDC, some strains of gonorrhea have become resistant to most of the antibiotics that have been prescribed for them.
Anthony Lutz, a nurse practitioner in the department of urology at Columbia University Medical Center said, “On mouth-to-mouth transmission of oral gonorrhea would be challenging because it is difficult to find people who have kissing-only partners — as well as oral gonorrhea — and who would be willing to discuss it.”
“It would also be difficult to prevent transmission.”
“The new findings from Australia are true, the idea could initially incite fear. But because kissing is so common, it could also help destigmatize the disease and encourage people to talk about it. In any case, research is vital to help both practitioners and their patients completely understand the disease.”
Chow said, “He hopes the new findings will provide a better understanding of gonorrhea. Through our research, we have shown that gonorrhea can be passed on through kissing. This will help people understand how the infection was introduced — particularly if they have not have been sexually active.”
“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.”
The study is published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.