Previously it had been thought the bacteria — one of the UK’s most common sexually transmitted infections — were passed on through unprotected sex and not by kissing.
But as antibiotic resistant strains of the STI spread across the globe, Australian researchers say ‘deep kissing’ with tongues may be an important and neglected route for passing on throat, or oropharyngeal, gonorrhoea.
Associate professor Eric Chow, of Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, said evidence suggested that transmission of the infection from the oropharynx — part of the throat — may be more common than previously thought.
Bacteria can be cultured from saliva, ‘suggesting its exchange between individuals may potentially transmit gonorrhoea’, he said. Gargling with antiseptic mouthwash could help stop the spread of the disease, the report found.
The 2017 Melbourne study was carried out among gay and bisexual patients. The proportion of men testing positive for throat gonorrhoea was higher than it was for those who had had sex without kissing. Prof Chow said: ‘Kissing with or without sex may be a risk factor.’
In the UK, gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI after chlamydia.