Bad news for those who love a smooch; new research suggests Gonorrhoea could be transmitted through French kissing.
According to a study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, ‘deep kissing’ - or French kissing - could be a neglected factor spreading the infection
Many think the sexually transmitted disease is spread almost exclusively through sexual contact but the study suggests otherwise.
Researchers from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre found that kissing with tongues could be a way to transmit oral gonorrhoea.
The study, of gay and bisexual men, gathered data from around 3,000 participants between 2016 to 2017.
Participants were asked to detail their sexual history over the past three months.
Categories included partners with whom they had kissed but not had sex with, had sex with but not kissed, or kissed and had sex with.
The results revealed that men who had a higher number of ‘kissing only partners’ had a greater likelihood of testing positive for throat gonorrhoea than others.
Those who had sex but did not kiss were less likely to have gonorrhoea, the research revealed.
The data suggests that kissing may be associated with transmission of oropharyngeal gonorrhoea, irrespective of whether sex also occurs.
Study authors can’t say for certain that kissing was the cause of gonorrhoea, mainly because the study didn’t include other sexual practices such as oral sex.
They did suggest however, that throat to throat transmission of gonorrhoea has been ‘underestimated and neglected’.
“Our results suggest kissing with or without sex may be a risk factor for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea,” they added.
The results come amidst reports of rising rates of the disease.
Earlier this year ‘Super gonorrhoea’ hit the headlines after a case described as ‘the world’s worst’ was caught in Thailand last year, and then contracted by two women in the UK,.
According to NSW Health, the sexually transmitted infection is caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus.
It has few symptoms and people are often unaware they are infected.
The government website advises that, “Gonorrhoea can be transmitted through anal, vaginal or oral sex, even when there are no symptoms.”
This does not take into account the new findings which could suggest that kissing is just as risky.
The study’s authors point out, however, that the study does have some limitations, particularly as it was such a narrow testing group.
“The new study... looks at a very specific testing group and as such we would be wary to take those learnings and apply with them to the general population,” explains Dr Laura Joigneau Prieto from online doctor Zava.
Dr Joigneau Prieto explains that the bacteria causing gonorrhoea are mainly found in discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluid.
“However, in far fewer cases, this bacteria has also been found in the throat,” she explains.
“This is where the discussion around french kissing causing gonorrhoea stems from.”
“We would advise anyone who thinks they have any symptoms to speak with a healthcare professional or use an STI test kit, which is readily available online.”
Words by Marie-Claire Dorking
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