WHO issued the new guidelines for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, which are all caused by bacteria. The infections traditionally have been treatable with antibiotics, but WHO warns that new strains and spotty testing have resulted in many people not being diagnosed early and subsequently becoming more likely to harbor an antibiotic-resistant form of the infection.
"Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are major public health problems worldwide, affecting millions of peoples' quality of life, causing serious illness and sometimes death," Ian Askew, director of reproductive health and research at WHO, said in a statement today. "The new WHO guidelines reinforce the need to treat these STIs with the right antibiotic, at the right dose, and the right time to reduce their spread and improve sexual and reproductive health. To do that, national health services need to monitor the patterns of antibiotic resistance in these infections within their countries."
In total, the infections afflict more than 200 million people every year, with 131 million contracting chlamydia, 78 million contracting gonorrhea and 5.6 million people contracting syphilis annually, according to WHO.
In recent years, all three infections have become more resistant to antibiotics, with certain strains of gonorrhea resistant to every available antibiotic.
The WHO guidelines include calling on countries to update tracking of these different infections, use certain medications that will quickly knock out an infection and promote safe sex to help combat the spread of these antibiotic-resistant STIs. The complete guidelines can be found here.
These new guidelines bring WHO in line with recommendations from the CDC that were issued in 2015.
Health officials across the globe have been warning that antibiotic-resistant bacteria could severely impact human health as the effectiveness of current antibiotics continues to wane.
In the U.S., there is currently just one antibiotic treatment recommended by the CDC to treat gonorrhea. In 2006, there were five recommended antibiotic treatments, four of which have mostly been made obsolete by the infection becoming resistant to treatment.