We share lots of important health news on our Facebook page, some STI-related, some not. But rather than just sharing the news we wanted to weigh in so our Head Doctor, Dr Mitchell Tanner has added his 2 cents about four hot health topics. Without further ado we give you…Dr Tanner and his 2 cents.
Researchers raise concerns over sexually transmitted superbug
The original article can be found here on SMH.com.au
Dr Tanner Says…
Mycoplasm Genitalium, or MG, has understandably been in the news lately, being featured in the Sydney Morning Herald and other places. And for good reason!
Researcher estimate that is is present in 1 – 3% of Australians. In high-risk populations, the rate could be close to 50%.
Worse still, the bacteria is displaying evidence of rapidly developing antibiotic resistance, or behaving as a superbug. This occurs when a bacteria no longer responds to antibiotics that it previously did, and therefore becomes more difficult to treat. If a patient does acquire an antibiotic resistant bacteria, it means they may require second or third line antibiotics to successfully treat it. These more powerful antibiotics may have worse side effects, be more expensive, or require longer treatment periods to work.
The problems caused by MG are essentially the same as Chlamydia, namely pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and potential infertility.
The problem with MG is that although it was discovered in the 1980’s, a laboratory test has only recently been developed to test for the bacteria. It’s not that MG has so much as slipped under the radar, but as doctors there has been no way to test patients for the bacteria, hence detection has been all but impossible, particularly for General Practitioners.
However, that may be about to change, with the commercial testing being approved for Australia. The test will be very similar to those currently in place for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, using a combination of urine tests and swabs.
As GP’s, we will take our lead regarding testing from Sexual Health Specialists. However, with the extremely concerning research reports regarding the prevalence of MG, it’s only a matter of time until testing for MG becomes part of the regular STI screening routine, hopefully, sooner rather than later and we’ll certainly be testing for it as soon as we can at Stigma Health.
Hep C to be Eliminated in Australia in Ten Years
The original article can be found here on Star Observer
Dr Tanner Says…
The new Hepatitis C treatments discussed in The Star Observer are indeed very exciting and revolutionary. They promise a 99% success rate in eliminating the Hep C virus in positive patients, with no significant side effects experienced in patients. And in clinical practice, that’s exactly what we are seeing. Moreover, the treatment cycle only takes 12 weeks to complete.
This is in particular contrast to the previous Hep C treatments, which had poor success rates and particularly bad side effects.
The exact process for getting these treatments for patients will differ with location, however essentially patients with Hep C will need to visit their GP to assess their disease status and to assess their Liver status and the degree of dysfunction, if any. This information will then be shared with a Specialist Gastroenterologist, probably via the public health system and a referral made. From here, patients will be triaged according to their disease severity. Patients with established liver disease or dysfunction will be seen first by the Gastroenterologist, whilst patients with better liver function will been seen later.
If a GP is comfortable, and most should be as the new medications are very safe, they will prescribe the treatment regime suitable for the individual patient under the guidance of the Gastroenterologist.
The best part about this news is the cost. The new Hepatitis C treatments have all been PBS listed, as of early 2016. This means the most patients will pay for the treatments is $38.80, or $6.30 for concession card holders.
The true price of these medications is close to $100 000 per patient, however the Federal Government has made the decision to PBS list the medications at significant expense to the Budget. This is because the projections are that these treatments can eradicate Hep C within the projected 10 years. It can be done, but as suggested at the end of the article by Hepatitis ACT, this will require appropriate needle exchange programs, GP prescribing, and increased testing for Hep C!
Australian online dating linked to STI surge
The original article can be found here on 9news.com.au
Dr Tanner Says…
A University of Queensland academic has stated it is possible that people using dating apps may have developed a cavalier attitude towards the practice of safe sex, therefore increasing the risk of STI’s, and as a GP I’d be inclined to agree.
It’s well known that young people are more likely to take risks in their lives, and we see this with sexual practices. The UNSW Study “Understanding barriers to STI testing among young people,” revealed low rates of condom use amongst the people studied.
There are various psychological reasons for this, however essentially, like most potentially dangerous things in life, younger people tend to have the “it won’t happen to me” attitude, and unfortunately STI’s are no different.
This, combined with the increased ease of people connecting sexually via apps, leads to the quite reasonable theory that these apps may lead to an increase in STI’s.
The message is simple. Condoms should be used for every sexual encounter, and regular STI/STD testing is a vital part of maintaining your sexual health.
Young adults at risk of catching mumps despite being vaccinated
The original article can be found here on news.com.au
Dr Tanner Says…
The news regarding young adults being at increased risk of mumps is concerning and a reminder of the importance of all members of the community being fully vaccinated.
Vaccination is the greatest public health achievement in history. The efficacy is undoubted, and the safety extreme. There is no link to autism! There are some potential serious side effects, however the risk of these are in the order 1 per 1 million exposures or less, as opposed to the risk of death or serious disability people may experience if they have one of the diseases. For example, approximately 10% of mumps suffers will develop meningitis.
What is probable in the case described in the article is the bodies antibodies are declining from the time the immunisation was given. The last mumps immunisation is given at 18 months of age, so it stands to reason that a booster may be needed, and as the article states the experts are actively considering this.
Symptoms of mumps are fever, headache and malaise followed by a progressive swelling of the parotid glands (side of the face) over about 1 week.
At this stage, a booster is not being recommended, so there is nothing specific people can do to protect themselves from this increased risk.
What people can do, however, make sure they are fully vaccinated and not believe the unfounded, unscientific, and just plain wrong propaganda from the anti-vax community. There is nothing more important than our whole community being vaccinated, and the continued battle against this vocal minority is one we just should not have to have.