AUSTIN (KXAN) – To increase sexually transmitted infection prevention in groups at an elevated risk, medical professionals might consider prescribing a common antibiotic soon after a person has been exposed, according to a CDC and HHS draft recommendation released Monday.
STI rates have reached record highs with no indication of slowing down— cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and congenital syphilis have increased in recent years, according to the CDC. There was a slight decrease in chlamydia cases from 2017 to 2021, but the CDC suggested this was a reflection of fewer people getting screened because of the COVID-19 pandemic and not a reduction in new infections.
Over 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in 2021, according to the CDC.
In its draft recommendation, the CDC wrote that some researchers have collected data showing that using doxycycline as a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can be effective in preventing bacterial STIs in populations with higher rates of these infections, such as men who have sex with men and transgender women.
This type of treatment to prevent infection is not new. PEP is often used to prevent HIV infection after exposure, and medical professionals already use doxycycline before and after exposure to prevent Lyme disease and malaria infections, per the CDC.
One study showed that men who take up to 200mg of doxycycline between one and three days after condom-less sex were 65% less likely to test positive for a bacterial STI than those who were not taking the medication.
Doxycycline is already used in the treatment of chlamydia and as an alternative to penicillin in syphilis. Some users report sensitivity to sunlight or gastrointestinal issues while using the medication, however, the CDC reports that most adverse symptoms will subside when users stop taking the medication.
Before the CDC finalizes the recommendation, it is accepting public comments through Nov. 16.