Northern Ireland

Rise in sexually transmitted infections in Northern Ireland

gonorrhoea
Image caption The infection is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoea

The number of diagnoses of uncomplicated gonorrhoea is the highest that has ever been recorded in Northern Ireland.

The figures were released by the Public Health Agency (PHA) on Thursday.

The sexually transmitted infection surveillance in Northern Ireland report shows there were 451 cases in 2012. In 2011 there were 336.

Uncomplicated gonorrhoea, a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI), affects the lower genital tract.

The PHA said the increase could be attributed to a combination of more sensitive testing, an increase in the number of people tested and increased unsafe sexual activity.

Dr Neil Irvine, a health protection consultant with the PHA said: "Between 2010 and 2012, diagnoses of uncomplicated gonorrhoea have more than doubled, from 200 in 2010 to 451 in 2012.

Infertility

"The increase has been seen in both heterosexuals and in men who have sex with men (MSM)."

Dr Irvine said it would suggest that the newer, more sensitive tests introduced in recent years were showing the prevalence was higher than previously thought.

"However, there is also likely to be increased transmission due to unsafe sex, given that infectious syphilis and HIV diagnoses have also increased in recent years," he added.

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) and, untreated, can enter the bloodstream or spread to the joints.

In women it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

An infected pregnant woman may pass the infection to her baby during delivery.

There is a growing worldwide problem of gonorrhoea becoming resistant to antibiotics.

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