Can Gonorrhea Spread From Kissing?
Gonorrhea is one of the most commonly spread sexually transmitted diseases (STD). It is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, and it infects moist and warm parts of the body, including:
- Urethra (the tube that transports urine from the urinary bladder)
- Female reproductive tract (the uterus, cervix, and the fallopian tubes)
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease in the United States.(1)
Gonorrhea is transferred from one person to another by having unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex. While it was earlier believed that you could not pass on gonorrhea by kissing, but new research has now shown that it is very much possible to contract oral gonorrhea from kissing.
Researchers in Australia recently published their study in the Sexually Transmitted Infections journal.(2) The study found that kissing with tongue (French kissing) is also a way for transmitting oropharyngeal gonorrhea, or oral gonorrhea. This is especially common amongst bisexual and homosexual men. While more in-depth research is still required to find out more about this, but the initial findings from the study are essential to further understanding how gonorrhea spread and becomes resistant to treatment.
How Does Gonorrhea Spread Through Kissing?
The researching team is still unsure of how exactly gonorrhea gets transmitted through kissing. It is believed, though, that a person can contract oral gonorrhea from kissing someone whose saliva contains the bacteria. However, how much of saliva-swapping is needed to actually spread the disease is still unclear.
The type of kiss is also under examination. It is likely that the kind of kiss also has a role to play in whether the bacteria is transmitted from one person to another. Based on the results of the study, it can be established that deep French kissing, which involves the tongues, is likely to pose the highest risk of transmission.
But if that is the case, then what about sharing eating utensils, straws, and other items that might be contaminated with an infected person’s saliva?
There is no evidence to show that you can catch gonorrhea from sharing these items with someone who is positively infected with gonorrhea.
However, sharing of sex toys with someone who has been diagnosed with gonorrhea can spread not just gonorrhea, but other sexually transmitted infections as well.(3)
How To Reduce The Risk Of Transmission of Gonorrhea?
Avoiding French kissing is one of the only ways to completely eliminate the risk of oral transmission of gonorrhea. Also, limiting the number of kissing partners is also recommended.
The Australian study, carried out in 2019, had surveyed 3,677 male participants who have sexual relations with other men. The data the researchers collected examined the number of partners these men had in the last three months. The data was also broken down into three categories, including:
- Sex-only partners
- Kissing-only partners
- Kissing with sex partners
The data found that the groups of men who indulged in kissing only and kissing with sex had been diagnosed with throat gonorrhea. Having four or more partners in the categories of kissing only and kissing with sex further doubled the risk of getting diagnosed with throat gonorrhea.
The category of sex only, which defined any type of sexual activity that did not involve kissing, was ruled out and not associated with throat gonorrhea.
As can be seen from the results of the study, kissing only and kissing with sex both increase the chance of contracting throat gonorrhea. So if you want to reduce the risk of getting gonorrhea, avoiding multiple sexual and kissing partners, and altogether avoiding kissing can be a sure-shot way of eliminating or reducing the risk of gonorrhea.
What To Do If You Get Gonorrhea?
The truth is that unless you get tested, there is quite a high chance that you will never come to know you have gonorrhea because this STD does not always cause symptoms. This is known as asymptomatic gonorrhea.(4)
If you end up contracting oral gonorrhea from oral sex or kissing, then the symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from some of the common symptoms of throat infections. These may include:
- Sore throat
- Redness in the throat
- Swollen lymph glands in the neck
It is possible for people who have oral gonorrhea to also have a gonorrhea infection in another part of the body. In this case, here are some of the signs and symptoms you should be looking for.
Symptoms Of Urogenital Gonorrhea Are:
- Painful intercourse
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Unusual discharge from the vagina or penis
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
- Painful or swollen testicles
Here Are Some Of The Symptoms Observed In Rectal Gonorrhea:
- Rectal bleeding
- Painful bowel movements
- Discharge from the anus
- Anal itching
How Is Gonorrhea Diagnosed And Treated?
Gonorrhea can only be diagnosed by a doctor. In the case of oral gonorrhea, swabs are used for collecting samples of saliva from your throat. Swabs may also be used for collecting samples from the cervix, urethra, and the rectum. Urine samples can also be used for diagnosing gonorrhea.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who is sexually active should get tested for sexually transmitted infections at least once a year.(5)
If you are aware that your partner has been diagnosed with gonorrhea or any other sexually transmitted diseases, then also it is necessary that you get tested, even if you do not experience any signs and symptoms.
Gonorrhea can be treated with a proper course of antibiotics. However, gonorrhea of the throat is more challenging to treat than rectal or genital gonorrhea.
Oral gonorrhea is treated with two different antibiotics. One is an intramuscular injection of 1 gram of oral azithromycin, and the other is a 250 milligrams injection of ceftriaxone. In some cases, a higher dose or multiple doses might be required.
While more research is still needed to understand exactly how kissing spreads the bacteria that causes gonorrhea, it is always better to practice restraint in kissing if you are aware that your partner has gonorrhea. By practicing safe sex and getting regular check-ups done for STDs, you can remain healthy and safe from such infections. Make sure that you use barrier protection during sex, including dental dams for oral sex and condoms for any type of penetrative intercourse. Open communication with your partner is necessary to prevent infection.
- Cdc.gov. (2020). Gonorrhea – 2017 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats17/gonorrhea.htm [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- Chow, E.P., Cornelisse, V.J., Williamson, D.A., Priest, D., Hocking, J.S., Bradshaw, C.S., Read, T.R., Chen, M.Y., Howden, B.P. and Fairley, C.K., 2019. Kissing may be an important and neglected risk factor for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea: a cross-sectional study in men who have sex with men. Sexually transmitted infections, 95(7), pp.516-521.
- Avert. (2020). Gonorrhoea symptoms & treatment. [online] Available at: https://www.avert.org/sex-stis/sexually-transmitted-infections/gonorrhoea [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- Thatcher, R.W., McCraney, W.T., Kellogg, D.S. and Whaley, W.H., 1969. Asymptomatic gonorrhea. JAMA, 210(2), pp.315-317.
- Cdc.gov. (2020). Which STD Tests Should I Get? | Prevention | STDs | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/screeningreccs.htm [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].
- How Long Does Gonorrhea Last & What are Its Long Term Effects?
- What Kind Of Disease is Gonorrhea?
- Can Gonorrhea Go Away On Its Own?
- Can You Die If You Have Gonorrhea?
- How Does Gonorrhea Look Like?
- How Do You Know You Have Gonorrhea?
- What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gonorrhea in a Male and in a Female?