A new study conducted in Australia suggests that gonorrhea could be passed through kissing, challenging the century-long assumption that the disease can only be transmitted sexually, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The study claims to have found statistical evidence that the disease can be transmitted through tongue kissing, at least among gay and bisexual men. The scientific community traditionally thought that gonorrhea, caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, could only be transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex.
“We found that the more people an individual kissed also placed them at an increased risk of having throat gonorrhea, irrespective of whether sex occurred with the kissing,” Eric Chow, the lead author of the study, told the Washington Post.
Speaking to the Post, Anthony Lutz, a nurse practitioner at Columbia University Medical Center, said the “suggestion that it [gonorrhea] could be transmitted mouth to mouth has been percolating within the medical community.”
The findings, if true, would incite fear among the general population and make it hard to prevent transmission, said Lutz.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gonorrhea cases in the U.S. spiked 67 percent between 2013 and 2017 to more than 555,000.