Although overall rates of sexually transmitted infections rose by 2%, there has been an increase of 25% in new infections by gonorrhoea reported to the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) – the second increase in two years running. Gonorrhoea rates increased from 16,835 to 20,965.
Other significant increases in sexually transmitted infections were in infectious syphilis (10%; 2,650 to 2,915) and genital herpes (5%; 29,794 to 31,154).
In contrast there was only a 1% rise in genital warts, perhaps reflecting the effectiveness of the vaccination programme. Diagnoses of genital warts cases in women aged 15-19 actually fell by 14% (11,251 to 9,700).
The greatest increase in sexually transmitted infections was in men who have sex with men and in heterosexual men and women aged 15-24. The high rates of infection reported in girls aged 15-19 is particularly worrying.
According to Professor Cathy Ison, director of sexually transmitted bacterial reference laboratory, the appearance of resistant strains for which no single antibiotic is effective is particularly worrying. This opens the prospect of having to use combination therapy in the future.
Research on effective behavioural change therefore remains a top priority.