CDC to Endorse Antibiotic for USDA-Approved STD Prevention in LGBTQ+ Community


In a potentially groundbreaking move, United States health officials are set to back a common antibiotic, doxycycline, as a viable form of protection against certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) for gay, bisexual and transgender women. Primarily perceived as a morning-after pill, the decision is in response to the escalating rates of STDs which call for a rapid introduction of effective preventive measures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unrolled the proposal on Monday, setting a 45-day window for public comments before its finalization. Dr. Jonathan Mermin, who spearheads the CDC’s STD initiatives, expressed an urgent need for more tools to combat the growing threat of STDs.

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Studies discovered that individuals using doxycycline within three days following unprotected sex significantly lowered their chances of contracting chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea compared with those not using the antibiotic. The guideline, however, applies explicitly to the group most studied: gay and bisexual men, and transgender women who had contracted an STD within the previous year and were highly susceptible to becoming re-infected.

The current data is scant in acknowledging doxycycline’s efficacy for other demographics, including heterosexual men and women, but future research may potentially expand its applicability.

This strategy is a significant leap in the continuous fight against STDs, a field Dr. Mermin remarked as “lacking innovation for so long.” Other advancements included the vaccine for the HPV virus and preventive pills against HIV infection.

Doxycycline, an affordable antibiotic on the market for over 40 years, has been a standard treatment, particularly for health concerns like acne and chlamydia.

The forthcoming CDC guidelines refer to four studies examining doxycycline’s effectiveness against bacterial STDs. A notable study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that gay men, bisexual men, and transgender women significantly reduced their chances of contracting chlamydia by 90%, syphilis by 80%, and gonorrhea by over half when using the antibiotic.

San Francisco’s health department pioneered the use of doxycycline as a morning-after preventive measure a year ago with other health departments, primarily on the West Coast, following in their footsteps.

Currently, Fenway Health, a Boston-based health center that serves many gay, lesbian, and transgender clients, reports about 1,000 patients using the antibiotic. The guideline’s introduction will compel many doctors, who had hitherto remained reticent, to discuss this method with their patients, Dr. Taimur Khan said, the organization’s associate medical research director.

Although predominantly safe, use of doxycycline does bring potential side effects such as stomach problems and sun-induced skin rashes. Additionally, extensive use could theoretically lead to bacterial mutations rendering them immune to the antibiotic. Dr. Stephanie Cohen, who oversees the San Francisco health department’s STD prevention work, indicated that while there no instances of antiobiotic resistance have manifested so far, it is a potential concern that merits ongoing surveillance.