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In the lastest ECDC report, Ireland ranks fourth highest for rates of gonorrhoea and third highest for syphilis. Alamy Stock Photo
ECDC

Gonorrhoea and syphilis rates in Ireland among highest in Europe amid ‘concerning’ rise in STIs

In 2021, Ireland ranked fourth highest across Europe for rates of gonorrhoea and third highest for rates of syphilis.

IRELAND RANKS IN the top five across Europe for incidence rates of gonorrhoea and syphilis, according to the latest reports from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The ECDC has said its 2021 reports reveal a “concerning rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) across Europe”.

The ECDC adds that the “troubling trends” could have “significant public health implications”.

The 2021 ECDC reports on chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) highlight an increase in reported cases of these STIs across the 30 European Economic Area (EEA) nations.

The EEA contains the 27 EU nations, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

There was an increase in the number of reported gonorrhoea cases in 2021 across both Ireland and Europe, with Ireland having the fourth highest rates of gonorrhoea across Europe in 2021

In total, there were 46,728 confirmed cases of gonorrhoea across Europe in 2021 – a rate of 13.7 per 100,000 population across Europe.

In Ireland, there were 2,108 confirmed cases of gonorrhoea in 2021 – a rate of 42.1 per 100,000 population.

This is an increase on the year previous in 2020, when there were 2,049 confirmed cases and a rate of 41.3 per 100,000.

However, both these figures are considerably lower than 2019, when there were 2,811 confirmed cases and a rate of 57.3.

Amid this recent rise in gonorrhoea cases, the ECDC has expressed concern about reports of increasing resistance to two antibiotics – azithromycin and ciprofloxacin – and have emphasised the need for vigilant monitoring and robust response strategies.

Ireland also ranked third highest across Europe for rates of syphilis in 2021.

There were 717 confirmed cases of syphilis in Ireland in 2021, a rate of 14.3 per 100,000 population.

This incidence rate is more than double that of Europe, at 7 per 100,000.

The year previous in 2020, there were 579 cases in Ireland and a rate of 11.7 per 100,000.

As with confirmed cases of gonorrhoea, 2019 levels were considerably higher, with 745 cases and a rate of 15.2.

Elsewhere, confirmed cases of chlamydia also increased in 2021 both across Ireland and Europe.

There were 184,542 confirmed cases across Europe in 2021, a rate of 73.9 per 100,000 population across Europe.

In Ireland, there were 7,207 confirmed cases in 2021 – a rate of 144 per 100,000 population, the sixth highest in Europe.

That’s an increase on the year previous in 2020, when there were 6,901 confirmed cases in Ireland and a rate of 139 per 100,000.

Again, both these figures are considerably lower than in 2019, when there were 9,206 confirmed cases and a rate of 187.7

The ECDC also revealed a “concerning” rise in lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV).

LGV has “potential long-lasting complications” and almost all cases in 2021 were reported among men who have sex with men.

Among cases with a known HIV status, 43% were HIV positive.

The ECDC said this “underscores the importance of targeted prevention strategies and enhanced surveillance to curb the spread of LGV”.

The ECDC added that the number of cases reported is “likely to be an underestimation as many countries do not have national surveillance systems for LGV and confirmation of infection through molecular diagnostics is not widely available”.

In Ireland, there were 12 confirmed LGV cases in both 2021 and 2020, down from a reported 38 cases in 2019.

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