Doxycycline after unprotected sex may reduce risk of infection

Science and Health

A single dose of an antibiotic called doxycycline taken after sex reduces the chances of developing an infection by half, according to a new study published in the United States and presented at the viral diseases conference in Denver, Colorado. This method reduces the high rate of infection of sexually transmitted diseases, including the sexually transmitted bacteria chlamydia and syphilis, a disease that widely affects homosexual men.

One of the most serious diseases is syphilis. It begins as a relatively mild disease without symptoms. It then manifests itself in the appearance of a rash that spreads, and those with the disease may suffer serious conditions of the brain, heart, eyes, and other organs. According to the data of the Health Ministry, in this past year alone, there was a 30% increase in the rate of people infected with syphilis and a 3-fold increase compared to the previous decade.

The surge in sexually transmitted disease infections has been observed all over the world and in Israel. Studies began a few years ago with the approval of the PrEP drugs to prevent infection with the AIDS virus, mainly among homosexual men. The use of these drugs led to unprotected sex, and although it did cause a certain decrease in the rate of infection with the AIDS virus, it also led to a dramatic increase in the infection of sexually transmitted diseases and the widespread use of antibiotics. This caused some of the bacteria that induce STDs to show resistance until in some cases, there was no effectiveness for the treatment.

An illustrative image of a couple in bed. (credit: INGIMAGE)

A new study included data collected on gay, bisexual, and transgender men.

A new study examined data collected on gay, bisexual, and transgender men. The new strategy called DoxyPEP, short for doxycycline, is a treatment taken after unprotected sexual exposure. As part of the study, participants who had a history of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or having multiple partners received a supply of doxycycline and were asked to take two pills of the antibiotic at a dose of 100 milligrams each, within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

During the year of the study, researchers found that there was a drop in the new infection cases of chlamydia and syphilis. However, there was no decrease in the cases of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. In the United States, STD infection has become an epidemic, with a record number of new infections not seen since 1950. Without treatment, some diseases can also damage the heart, joints, and brain and cause blindness, deafness, and paralysis.

Professor Bibiana Hazan, director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Emek Medical Center, commented, “Even in Israel, some doctors treat with DoxyPEP, which can reduce the risk of infection with some bacteria. But the drug is not suitable for everyone, and it may cause side effects and a great deal of resistance. It is certainly not a substitute for caution and personal judgment that everyone should exercise.”

According to Professor Hazan, the treatment itself is insufficient and requires those in risk groups to undergo periodic tests. Hazan stated, “Those who have unprotected sex with alternating partners should undergo tests once every 3 months. This is called an STD panel and includes a blood test for HIV, urine tests, and testing the pharynx and rectum for sexually transmitted disease bacteria.”