Dangerous liaisons?

Express April 15, 2010

HYDERABAD: Gonorrhoea was found to be the most common sexually transmitted disease in patients who arrived at the Liaquat University Hospital with complaints of genital discharge, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association’s February issue.

The article, ‘Frequency and pattern of Gonorrhoea at Liaquat University Hospital, Hyderabad (A hospital based descriptive study)’, was co-authored by Bikha Ram Devrajani, Doulat Rai Bajaj, Syed Zulfiquar Ali Shah, Rafi Ahmed Ghori from the departments of medicine and dermatology.

One hundred and eighteen patients, including 92 men and 26 women, were identified with the disease. The study was carried out at the department of dermatology between December 2007 and May 2008. It showed that 46 per cent of all patients who came to the LUH with a history of discharge were diagnosed with gonorrhoea, which has the highest frequency in the 15 to 29 years age group.

Sixty percent of these patients belonged to Hyderabad while 40 percent belonged to the rest of Sindh. These patients came to the hospital with complaints of pain and burning. Many patients were initially admitted at the hospital with complaints of fever, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. However, they later developed some symptoms that identified their infection as an STD.

After a complete examination, these cases were referred to the dermatology department, where the doctors made a final diagnosis of the gonococcal infection. Studies revealed that many patients had a history of multiple sexual partners who did not regularly use condoms, resulting in a contraction of the STD. An early detection of gonorrhoea can prevent the patients from suffering long-lasting effects, such as infertility among men and women and pelvic inflammatory diseases, among other conditions.

The disease can also result in blindness among babies who are born to infected mothers. The prevalence of gonorrhoea in Pakistan was 28 per cent, stated a study conducted in 1999. Around 62 million cases of gonorrhoea occur worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organisation. Sexually Transmitted Diseased rank among the top five categories for which adults in developing countries seek health care services.

Despite the availability of cost effective treatment, the number of STD-related cases are high due to an ineffective method of administering medication. The prevalence of STDs also varies widely within similar population groups among countries within the same region due to social, cultural, and economic factors as well as the availability of appropriate treatment.

However, gonorrhoea remains a common STD despite the administration of effective antibiotics and publicity about safer sex. This is because people such as sex workers under the age of 25 years, people with a history of STDs, people with new or multiple sex partners, people who do not consistently use condoms and drug users do not apply preventive measures to avoid contracting STDs. Gonorrhoea is a Greek word which means “flow of seed” and is used to describe the white milky discharge which is spotted after sexual intercourse. The STD was discovered by Albert Ludwig Sigesmund Neisser in 1879.