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Who Discovered Gonorrhea?

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Gonorrhea, a bacterial infection, affects more than 1 million people every year in the United States. This sexually transmitted disease (STD) happens most in young adults below the age of 30. While gonorrhea can be deadly if not treated, it begins mostly without symptoms and then progresses into a symptomatic disease. During this time, gonorrhea can be spread to others through sexual contact, even before one might know he or she has it. Gonorrhea isn’t a new disease; in fact, details about illnesses that resemble gonorrhea have been in literature for more than a thousand years. It wasn’t until 1879 that gonorrhea was discovered by Albert Neisser.

Albert Ludwig Sigesmund NeisserAlbert Ludwig Sigesmund Neisser discovered the bacteria that causes gonorrhea in 1879.

About Albert Neisser

Albert Neisser was a Polish scientist who had a very interesting career studying microbes. He was a highly acclaimed scientist of his time, and his opinions were frequently sought after by his contemporaries. He not only discovered the bacterium that causes gonorrhea, he also discovered the bacterium that causes leprosy as well. In addition, he was responsible for testing treatment options for syphilis and investigating bacterial spread from humans to apes. His work in microbiology changed the options for treating gonorrhea. Before his discovery, people had to suffer the painful symptoms of gonorrhea without any options for treatment.

There were no treatment

Before Albert Neisser discovered the bacterium that causes gonorrhea, doctors did not have the means to treat the disease. People who contracted gonorrhea didn’t have any recourse, and they had to suffer with the symptoms. Upon the discovery that it was a bacterium, however, new options for treatment opened up. Bacterial infections can be treated based upon the type of bacterium that it is. Gonorrhea is a gram-negative bacterium and requires specific antibiotics for it to be cured.

About gonorrhea

While gonorrhea can be asymptomatic in the beginning, particularly in men, some individuals with gonorrhea do experience symptoms. The symptoms of gonorrhea in women include pain with urination, vaginal discomfort, and bleeding from the uterus. In men, symptoms include drainage from the penis, burning with urination and swelling in the testicles or scrotum. As the disease progresses, however, it migrates to other parts of the body including the throat. Gonorrhea can also cause a systemic infection that results in arthritis dermatitis, which is a rash accompanied by arthritis like symptoms. If a pregnant woman has gonorrhea and is not treated, she can pass the disease on to her baby who can become blind due to the disease. Gonorrhea is the primary reason that babies are given routine ophthalmic antibiotics at the time of birth.

When were treatments made available?

In 1937, gonorrhea began to be treated with antibiotics. Sulfonamides were the first option for treatment until the advent of penicillin. Penicillin is still the drug the choice, but increasing resistance to the drug is forcing doctors and scientists to discover even newer treatments for the disease. Unfortunately, treatment is still necessary because with more than a million new cases every year, gonorrhea still tops the STD charts. Gonorrhea is preventable with condom use and abstinence.

Easily preventable

While it is unsurprising that gonorrhea hasn’t yet been eradicated, basic common sense can prevent the spread of the disease. Even Neisser, more than a hundred years ago recognized the need for education and prevention of the disease.

More on sexually transmitted disease

  1. Syphilis discovery
  2. Chlamydia discovery