Saturday, June 15, 2024

Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea Surge: CDC Endorses Antibiotic for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea have significantly increased in the United States, prompting the U.S. government to endorse, for the first time, the use of an antibiotic for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This historic recommendation aims to curb the escalating rates of STIs and represents a proactive step in public health strategy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has introduced new guidelines advocating the doxyPEP regimen, specifically recommending its use within 72 hours of unprotected sex for groups at higher risk of contracting STIs. These groups include gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), as well as transgender women. The doxyPEP regimen involves taking 200 mg of doxycycline, which has been shown in three large clinical trials to reduce syphilis and chlamydia infections by more than 70% and gonococcal infections by approximately 50%.

Doxycycline has a well-established history as a prophylactic treatment for malaria, both before and after exposure, providing a precedent for its use in preventing other infections post-exposure. The CDC’s decision to recommend doxyPEP is a pioneering national effort that may influence other countries to adopt similar measures.

CDC Recommends doxyPEP for High-Risk Groups Amid Limited Vaccine Options for Syphilis, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea

The CDC highlighted the limited availability of vaccines and chemoprophylaxis options for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, which disproportionately affect MSM and transgender women communities. The new guidelines suggest that a prescription for doxyPEP should be offered to individuals in these high-risk groups who seek medical attention within 72 hours of having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. This recommendation is part of a broader sexual health strategy that includes risk reduction counseling, STI screening, and treatment.

At this stage, the CDC has refrained from recommending doxyPEP for other groups, such as heterosexual and cisgender men and women, due to insufficient data and concerns about the potential for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) with more widespread use. The cautious approach reflects a balance between immediate public health benefits and long-term concerns about AMR.


Advancements in Gonorrhea and Chlamydia Vaccines Highlight Challenges in Syphilis Treatment

There have been notable advancements in the fight against gonorrhea. GSK has made significant progress in developing new antibiotics and vaccines, achieving promising results. Additionally, Sanofi and other groups are working on vaccines for chlamydia. However, syphilis remains a challenging target for vaccination. Earlier this year, the FDA authorized emergency imports of a French antibiotic to address domestic shortages.

CDC data from 2022 indicated approximately 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis in the U.S. Syphilis cases saw a 17% rise, while chlamydia rates remained stable, and gonorrhea cases experienced a slight decrease compared to the previous year. Notably, gonorrhea cases had risen by around 11% over the previous five years, and the reduction in 2022 marked the first decline in a decade.

The CDC’s recommendation of doxyPEP represents a significant development in the ongoing battle against STIs. It provides a targeted approach to reducing the incidence of infections in high-risk groups while acknowledging the need for further research and cautious application to prevent the development of AMR. As public health officials monitor the impact of this new guideline, the success of doxyPEP could pave the way for broader applications and more comprehensive STI prevention strategies in the future.

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Resource: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 06, 2024

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