The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposed a new guideline this week for high-risk patients to take the antibiotic known as doxycycline as a morning-after pill to lower their risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Experts say health officials are likely to endorse the guidance, which was published Monday in the Federal Register.
The public has 45 days to comment on the proposal.
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The CDC guideline is based on previous studies showing a “demonstrated benefit” in specifically reducing chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis infections after people took a single 200-milligram doxycycline tablet no more than 72 hours after unprotected sex.
The CDC originally concluded in its previous 2021 Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines that more research was needed on whether doxycycline was effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections.
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Several recent randomized trials, however, have shown that when high-risk patients took doxycycline three days after unprotected sex, they were significantly less likely to get chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea compared to people who didn’t take the pills after sex.
The studies focused on gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender women at higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
One of the most prominent of these recent studies was published in The New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year.
It showed a two-thirds decrease in the incidence of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia among study participants, all of whom had had a sexually transmitted infection in the previous year.
There is currently insufficient evidence that the strategy will also benefit heterosexual men and women.
The CDC emphasized in the proposed guideline that the antibiotic is indicated only for gay and bisexual men and transgender women.
“This preventative medicine will certainly provide some benefit against the rising STD rates we are seeing in this country,” Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital on Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital.
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“However, it does nothing to address the high-risk behaviors people are engaging in,” he warned.
“There is a concern that such preventive therapies make people comfortable engaging in high-risk behaviors, thinking they will be protected.”
Sexually transmitted infections increased 42% between 2011 and 2021, with more than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2021, according to the CDC.
In 2021, gonorrhea rates increased by more than 4%, syphilis rates increased by approximately 32% for combined phases of infection, and chlamydia rates increased by almost 4%.
A specific type of syphilis that babies get at birth, known as congenital syphilis, has increased more than 203% in the past five years, the CDC added.
Doxycycline is a common antibiotic often prescribed to treat acne, prevent Lyme disease, and prevent malaria.
It is also the medicine of choice to treat Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacteria that causes the sexually transmitted infection known as chlamydia.
Although penicillin is the medication of choice to treat Treponema pallidum, the causative agent of syphilis, many health care providers are currently using doxycycline as an alternative to treat the infection due to a national penicillin shortage.
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The antibiotic can make patients more sensitive to the sun, so doctors always encourage patients to use sunscreen when taking the medicine.
It can also cause erosions and ulcers in the esophagus, so patients are encouraged to take the medication at least one hour before bed.
Doxycycline is an inexpensive antibiotic that has been available for more than 40 years, according to the Associated Press.
A year ago, the San Francisco health department began promoting doxycycline as a prevention measure the next day, the AP also reported.
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Original article source: The antibiotic doxycycline could be the morning-after pill for high-risk patients after unprotected sex, CDC suggests
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