Monday, 4 Dec 2023

UK is to blame for 55% of Europe’s ‘gonorrhoea epidemic’

UK is the EU’s gonorrhoea hotspot: Britain is to blame for 55% of cases with 49,000 Britons diagnosed with the STI in 2017 as experts warn dating apps are behind a spike across the continent

  • Figures revealed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
  • There are 74.7 cases of gonorrhoea for every 100,000 people in the UK
  • This is triple the average for the continent, which has 22.2 cases per 100,000

Gonorrhoea cases shot up by 13,000 across Europe last year as figures show the UK continues to be the continent’s clap capital.

Reports of the STI rose by 17 per cent in 2017 to almost 90,000, in what one expert has called an ‘epidemic’ – and more than half of them happened in the UK.

There are now 22.2 cases of gonorrhoea per 100,000 people in the EU, the worst rate for at least four years.

And the UK’s rate is more than three times as bad, with 74.7 in every 100,000 people diagnosed with the painful sexually transmitted infection.

One European expert said the new figures are just the tip of the iceberg and don’t show the true scale of the issue. 

Another told MailOnline the rising popularity of online dating and apps, such as Tinder and Grindr, could be fuelling an increase in unprotected casual sex.  

The UK had almost 50,000 cases of gonorrhoea in 2017, making up 55 per cent of the continent’s total and adding up to more than five times as many as second-placed France

There were 49,156 cases of gonorrhoea confirmed in the UK in 2017, making up 55 per cent of the European total of 89,239.

Britons having sex without condoms have left the nation with more gonorrhoea infections than all other European countries combined. 

Second to the UK was France which, despite having about the same population as the UK, had just 9,177 recorded gonorrhoea diagnoses.  

The figures were released in an annual surveillance report published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

ECDC expert Gianfranco Spiteri said: ‘We have to bear in mind that the numbers we see do not even show the true extent of the gonorrhoea epidemic in Europe. 

‘Many infections are not diagnosed due to lack of symptoms or limited access to diagnostics or simply are not reported.’

Figures revealed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show the UK has the highest rate of gonorrhoea, which more than 74 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Ireland (47) and Denmark (33)

The report showed cases of the common STI soared by 51 per cent between 2013 and 2017, from around 60,000, or around 14.5 per 100,000 people.

Among 27 EU and EEA (European Economic Area) countries compared in the report, Cyprus had the lowest rate of the infection, with just two officially recorded cases – 0.2 per 100,000 people.


Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus.

This bacteria is usually found in discharge from the penis or vaginal fluid.

It is passed through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, as well as sharing vibrators or sex toys that have been used without a condom.

The bacteria can infect the cervix, urethra, rectum, throat or eyes.

It can also spread from pregnant women to their unborn babies.

As the bacteria cannot survive outside the body for long, gonorrhoea is not spread by kissing, hugging, sharing towels, toilet seats or swimming.

Around one in 10 men and half of women experience no symptoms. 

However, these can include:

  • Thick green or yellow discharge from the genitals
  • Pain when urinating
  • Bleeding between periods in women

Treatment is usually a single antibiotic injection and tablet. 

Gonorrhoea can be prevented by using condoms during sex and not sharing sex toys.

Source: NHS Choices  

Nations in western and northern Europe were worst affected, with Ireland’s rate the second highest (46.9 per 100,000), followed by Denmark (33.3) and Norway (26.6).

Measured by raw numbers, Spain (8,200), the Netherlands (6,794), Sweden (2,515), Belgium (2,271) and Ireland (2,245) had the most infections.

An expert from the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV told MailOnline the popularity of online dating could be to blame. 

Dr Mark Lawton, a sexual health consultant in Liverpool, said: ‘Gonorrhoea is a strong marker of condomless sex. 

‘The increases in gonorrhoea likely relate to an increase in frequency and number of partners, perhaps facilitated by online dating and hook-up apps.’

He said there isn’t data which suggests people in the UK are more promiscuous than elsewhere, and said higher rates may reflect better diagnosis and recording of the infections.

Dr Lawton said the infection rate shouldn’t be a source of shame.

He added: ‘Shame is not a word that should ever be associated with sexually transmitted infections. 

‘Open discussion and de-stigmatisation will promote positive sexual health and encourage regular testing.’   

Almost half (47 per cent) of all Europe’s gonorrhoea infections were diagnosed among gay men.

Cases among women rose by 15 per cent in the year from 2016 to 2017, which experts said was concerning because of its potential impact on fertility. 

Estonia is the only country in which more women got the infection than men – all others, and the EU on average, had higher rates among males. 

Gonorrhoea, known as the clap, is the second most common STI in the UK, after chlamydia.

It is caused by a bacteria which spreads in fluids in the penis and vagina and can be transmitted by vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Symptoms tend to include pain when urinating, unusual discharge which may be white, green or yellow, or pain around the genitals.

The infection most commonly manifests in the reproductive organs but can spread elsewhere in the body – if left untreated for a long time it can lead to infertility. 

MailOnline has contacted Tinder and Grindr for comment. 

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