Syphilis cases hit 70-year high during pandemic

Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis surged in the U.S. in the second year of the pandemic, reaching more than 2.5 million cases in 2021, the CDC said on Tuesday.

Why it matters: STI's have been on the rise since 2017 — and the number of syphilis cases recorded in 2021 was the highest in 70 years.

State of play: Undetected spread of the diseases could worsen if courts uphold a recent ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act's full coverage requirement of certain preventative services, including STI screening.

  • Concern is also growing around antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea. In January, U.S. officials reported two cases of a particularly worrisome strain, CBS News reported.

By the numbers: The CDC focused on four nationally notifiable conditions, finding cases of syphilis jumped 32% in 2021 over 2020, and have increased by 74% over the past five years.

  • Syphilis among newborns, has increased more than 203% in five years.
  • Gonorrhea and chlamydia rates increased more than 4% between 2020 and 2021.

The intrigue: CDC officials are eyeing a potential solution for slowing the spread of infection in an old antibiotic, doxycycline, following a promising study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Associated Press reports.

  • The agency is drafting recommendations for using it as a "kind of morning-after pill for preventing STDs," they write.

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