Q & A: Drug-resistant sexually transmitted infections

The Birds and the Beavs is a weekly column answering your questions on the topics of sexual health, consent, and relationships, written by the Oregon State University Sexual Health Team.

Keep an eye out this week and next for Dead Week Zombie Kits, courtesy of the OSU Sexual Health Team. These kits will be at all of the campus cultural center, SHS locations, and various academic support centers around campus. Each kit contains two condoms, two packets of lube, bubble wrap for stress relief, a tea bag, a chapstick, candy, and tips for a successful finals week. 

 Although it may seem like an obscure topic, antibiotic resistance plays a particularly important role in sexual health. Certain STIs like gonorrhea have developed resistance to antibiotics prescribed to treat it. Chlamydia and Syphilis have also found to be resistant in some parts of the world. This week’s column is going to answers questions related to antibiotic resistance. Even though the topic is geared towards sexual health, all the information applies to other diseases!

Q: What is the difference between an bacteria and a virus?

Bacteria are one-celled organisms that are different shapes. They are found everywhere, on food, dirt, and on our bodies. There are some good bacteria, like those that help with digestion. There are some bad bacteria that can cause infections by invading the body’s cells. Bacterial infections need to be treated with an antibiotic, which are medications that kill bacteria.

Viruses are particles that invade your body’s cells. They are referred to as viruses because they are made of only genetic material with a protein coat. Unlike bacteria, they are not considered to be living because they cannot reproduce by themselves. Instead they need to invade and reproduce within a cell. Antibiotics cannot combat viruses. There are some antiviral medicines to treat some viral infections. However, most treatments help with symptoms while you wait for your immune system to fight off the virus.

Q: How does antibiotic resistance happen?

It is important to know that bacteria becomes antibiotic-resistant, not the human. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to medicines. Resistant bacteria can also give their drug-resistance to other bacteria. Antibiotics cannot treat antibiotic-resistant infections, and people can spread these resistant germs to others. It occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the progress.

Q: How can I prevent antibiotic resistance?

There are a couple things that you can do to prevent antibiotic resistance:

Do not take antibiotics for viral infections.

Complete your prescribed course of treatment exactly as instructed by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine even if you feel better, and do not save any antibiotics for future use.

Do not take someone else’s (or your pets) antibiotics because different kinds of antibiotics treat different types of bacterial infections.

If you have an STI, make sure you partner also gets tested and treated to prevent reinfection and antibiotic resistance.

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