Hold your tongue: Gonorrhea may spread from French kissing, study finds

MELBOURNE, Australia — Gonorrhea is the most antibiotic-resistant sexually transmitted disease known to man, and global diagnosis rates continue to rise each year. For example, an alarming 87 million people were diagnosed with the bacterial STI in 2016. Up until now, health professionals have been puzzled by this increase, but researchers from Australia have offered up a potentially groundbreaking explanation: gonorrhea can be transmitted simply through kissing with tongue.

It has long been accepted that gonorrhea can only be transmitted from one party to another through intimate sexual contact, so this additional method of infection would explain why gonorrhea diagnoses continue to rise all over the world.

Researchers studied more than 3,600 homosexual and bisexual men who had been sexually active over a 12 month period starting from March 2016. After separating the study participants by degree of sexual activity, researchers found that some subjects contracted gonorrhea after only French kissing with their partners. It was also discovered that gonorrhea rates were higher among study participants who had sex and kissed their partners compared to those who engaged in sex without any kissing.

The global sexual health community “needs to recognize that gonorrhea is on the rise and that there should be an increased awareness of the risks of kissing as a route of transmission,” says professor Kit Fairley, the director of the Melbourne Sexual Health Clinic, in a release. “Understanding how it is transmitted is the key to understanding how to control it – if transmission by kissing is a key route of transmission then it is important to investigate new methods of control, such as antibacterial mouthwash.”

Professor Fairley presented these findings at the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The original study is published in the scientific journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.