This site is intended for health professionals only

UK records highest number of gonorrhoea cases for over a century

UK records highest number of gonorrhoea cases for over a century

UK numbers of the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea were last year at their highest level since records began, in 1918.

UKHSA also reported dramatically increased numbers of syphilis cases, to the highest level since 1948.

In an alert, it urged health professionals to be vigilant in all ages and genders.

Gonorrhoea diagnoses increased by 50% to 82,592 in 2022 up from 54,961 the previous year and the highest number of cases since records began in 1918, the data showed.

Infectious syphilis diagnoses increased by 15% to 8,692 in 2022, the most cases reported since 1948, UKHSA said.

Whilst there has been more screening for sexually transmitted infections, the scale of the increase in diagnoses strongly suggests that there is more transmission within the population, UKHSA said.

There is concern that gonorrhoea is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics and at risk of becoming untreatable in the future.

And while people aged 15-24 remain most likely to be diagnosed with STIs, syphilis diagnoses are increasing across age bands, experts said.

GPs and other health professionals need to be aware of symptoms and consider syphilis in cases of unexplained ulcer, rash, swollen lymph nodes (anywhere on the body), headache, abnormal LFTs, rapid onset visual disturbance, and glandular fever-like symptoms.

A syphilis test, should also be considered in any pregnant woman with an unexplained rash. And a test for syphilis should always be done when checking for HIV and other blood borne viruses, UKHSA said.

Charities warned before the pandemic that ‘brutal’ funding cuts and a lack of a national strategy for sexual health were leading to soaring rates of sexually transmitted infections.

Dr Hamish Mohammed, consultant epidemiologist in the STI Section at UKHSA, said: ‘Over 8,000 syphilis diagnoses were reported in 2022 – the largest number since the late 1940s.

‘We are alerting healthcare professionals, whatever your speciality, to be aware that syphilis remains a concern and diagnosis rates are rising in adults of all ages.

‘Syphilitic complications present in many different ways so, given the increase in diagnoses in the population, it’s important to consider syphilis on the differential diagnosis for compatible illness.’

Dr Claire Dewsnap, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), said: ‘The rates of syphilis are increasing in all genders. Specialist GUM services are seeing a significant increase in presentations of both asymptomatic syphilis and, more worryingly, complex secondary and neurosyphilis. This means people are going undiagnosed and may be left with long term sequelae.’


Visit Pulse Reference for details on 140 symptoms, including easily searchable symptoms and categories, offering you a free platform to check symptoms and receive potential diagnoses during consultations.


Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Dave Haddock 12 June, 2023 10:59 am

The obvious answer is to confine everyone to their homes, with compulsory wearing of a condom when allowed out to buy food or exercise. And close the schools, you can’t be too careful.