Growing resistance to antibiotics has complicated the containment of common sexually transmitted infections, the World Health Organization has said.
Releasing new treatment guidelines in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday, WHO urged countries to update their national gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia treatment in response to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.
WHO estimates that at least 131 million people are infected with chlamydia, 78 million with gonorrhoea and 5.6 million with syphilis each year.
According to the WHO, the three common infections, which are generally curable with antibiotics, were facing more limited treatment as they often go undiagnosed and are becoming more difficult to treat with cheaper and more accessible antibiotics.
It said most antibiotics were now failing as a result of misuse and overuse.
The new recommendations are based on the latest evidence on the most effective treatments.
“Because of widespread resistance, older and cheaper antibiotics have lost their effectiveness in treatment,” said Ian Askew, director of reproductive health and research, WHO.
“Of the three, gonorrhoea has developed the strongest resistance to antibiotics,” he added.
“The new WHO guidelines reinforce the need to treat the infections with the right antibiotic, at the right dose, and the right time to reduce their spread and improve sexual and reproductive health.
“To do that, national health services need to monitor the patterns of antibiotic resistance in these infections within their countries,” Askew said.
When left undiagnosed and untreated, the infections can result in serious complications and long-term health problems such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy.