New STD has symptoms of gonorrhea

Health officials say they are tracking what appears to be a new sexually transmitted disease spreading through Columbus. And it comes from an unlikely source — the bacterium that causes meningitis.

According to scientific reports, a newly discovered strain of the bacterium has been found in more than 100 men who have visited Columbus Public Health’s Sexual Health Clinic since 2015 with symptoms of gonorrhea.

The bacterium at the heart of the infection is Neisseria meningitidis, which is responsible for meningitis outbreaks and a dangerous blood infection called sepsis. The new strain, however, does not appear to cause meningitis or sepsis. Instead, the strain seems to adapt to thrive in the urinary tract as a sexually transmitted disease. From what researchers have seen so far, the new strain responds to traditional antibiotic courses prescribed for gonorrhea.

For the more recent study, researchers looked at the genetic material of 52 of the Columbus cases, as well as four cases from other states. Among the Columbus cases, all of the men were heterosexual and most were black.

Researchers discovered that genetic changes had occurred, leading to the evolution of the strain, which appears more like relatives associated with gonorrhea, Yih-Ling Tzeng, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University’s School of Medicine in Atlanta, said in a statement. She is the lead author of the recent study. She is also a faculty member in the MMG program.

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