Researchers have reported a notable reduction in the incidence of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia among individuals who took doxycycline within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. The use of doxycycline, an antibiotic, to combat sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia has garnered mixed reactions from the scientific community.
The proposal to employ doxycycline as a preventive measure comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States. It is based on a study conducted between 2020 and 2022 by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of Washington. The study involved 501 adults across four clinic sites in San Francisco and Seattle.
The research findings, released this year, reveal a two-thirds reduction in the incidence of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia among participants who took doxycycline within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse.
In Uganda, a 2021 study by Ms. Veronicah Masanja reported a persistently high prevalence of self-reported STIs, increasing from 22 percent in 2006 to 27 percent in 2011. The study documented up to 1.5 million cases of STIs reported between 2015 and 2017, emphasizing the importance of STI control.
Dr. Ivan Kisuule, a physician at Mulago National Referral Hospital and acting deputy registrar at the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council, cautioned against adopting doxycycline for preventive use. He expressed concerns that its misuse by the public could lead to bacterial resistance. Uganda’s clinical guidelines of 2022 currently recommend doxycycline for treatment, not prevention.
Dr. Kisuule’s concerns about drug resistance echo those raised by the National Health Institute (NIH) of America, the study’s funder. In a statement on April 6, the NIH reported that the post-exposure approach, known as doxy-PEP, resulted in a two-thirds reduction in syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia incidence among participants. However, the research also revealed a slight increase in antibacterial resistance, prompting further investigation.
The global report of a study conducted in Uganda and 203 other countries indicated that drug-resistant bacterial infections caused approximately 1.2 million deaths in 2019, surpassing the combined death toll of HIV/AIDS (690,000) and malaria (409,000).
Scientists emphasize the effectiveness of condom use and abstinence as proven methods to prevent STIs.