Number of diagnosed STDs is growing

The boost may come from unsafe sex, increased testing, improved diagnostic technology and emerging drug resistance.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted Dec. 10, 2007

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For the second year running, incidence of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased, according to "Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2006," a report published last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"STDs pose a serious and ongoing health threat to millions of Americans," said John Douglas, MD, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention.

Chlamydia remains the most common reportable infectious disease, no matter what the route of transmission. In 2006, 1,030,911 cases were reported. This amount represented a nearly 6% boost from the previous year. Many experts suspect that some of the growth may be from expanded screening and more sensitive testing technology, although it also may represent a true jump in rates.

"If there are providers who think the young women in their practice don't have chlamydia, they should think again," said Stuart Berman, MD, the CDC's chief of Epidemiology and Surveillance in the Division of STD Prevention.

Gonorrhea infections went up by almost 6% as well, with 358,366 cases noted. Public health officials are particularly concerned because this bug is increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Nearly 14% of infections were immune to fluoroquinolones last year, far more than the 9.4% reported in 2005.

Primary and secondary syphilis increased nearly 14% to 9,756 cases in 2006. This rise appears to be driven by increases among men who have sex with men. Public health officials are particularly concerned because this infection amplifies the risk of contracting HIV. Meanwhile, the rate among women grew by about 11%, in turn translating into an increase in the disease's congenital form.

To make a dent in these numbers, the CDC last year launched a national plan to eliminate syphilis. For chlamydia, the CDC recommends that all sexually active women younger than 26 be screened annually. In addition, the CDC is monitoring gonorrhea for the development of further resistance.

The CDC, with the support of the American Medical Association, also encourages expedited partner therapy for those with gonorrhea and chlamydia.

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