[Question #4940] Question about STI

27 months ago
How long do the bacteria that cause Gonorrhea and Chlamydia survive outside the body? 
I have read that half of women infect their anus when wiping front to back. If that is the case why would activities like frottage not be high risk? 
Has there been many studies done about the transmission of these STDs?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
27 months ago
Welcome back, although I'm sorry you apparently remain concerned about gonorrhea or other STDs from environmental contamination.

Yes, there has been lots of research on transmission on STDs, especially gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.

Rectal gonorrhea is common in women and in men who have sex with men. Among women with gonorrhea, about 30-40% have rectal infection; in about 5% it is the only infected site. It is acquired primarily by anal sex, but also by contamination of the anal area with vaginal fluids. In these women, the exact mechanism is unknown, but it probably involves vaginal fluids coming into contact with the anus. But probably not because of direction of wiping, which falls into the folklore category. Despite claims online and elsewhere that it's a health issue, it probably makes no significant difference in genital or rectal infections. It is a common belief that urinary tract infections or vaginal yeast infections might result from back-to-front wiping, but research shows this has little if any effect. The same probably is true for rectal gonorrhea, and I doubt wiping direction makes any difference in risk of rectal gonorrhea or chlamydia.

Gonorrhea and other STDs are not just infections that happen to involve the genital area. The bacteria and viruses that caused them evolved to require sex itself for transmission. Frottage, hand-genital contact, fingering, and contact with an infected environment (toilet seats, towels, etc) just don't transfer enough bacteria for gonorrhea or other STDs to take hold. Even with vaginal sex -- with infected semen deposited directly in the vagina -- only about half of exposures to men with gonorrhea result in infection of the female partner.

Gonorrhea and chlamdia do not survive drying. But duration of survival outside the body doesn't matter. However long they survive, no infections result from exposure to contaminated towels, toilet seats, or in shared intimate clothing (e.g., panties, bathing suits). If you don't have sex with infected partners, you'll never catch gonorrhea. It's that simple.

I hope this helps. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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27 months ago
Can syphilis be passed through shared towels if it is used after someone who is infected? Is syphilis harder to transmit than other STDs?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
27 months ago
Syphilis is neither harder nor easier to transmit or catch than any other STD. They're called sexually transmitted diseases for a reason:  that's how they are passed from person to person! (Also to babies in the uterus or during delivery.) NONE are transmitted by towels, toilet seats, or nonsexual mechanisms.

Please understand this:  for every STD that exists, if you do not have sex with an infectedd person, you will never be at risk. Please do not be tempted to keep asking the same qustion about each different STD that comes to mind. Our answers will always be the same.
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27 months ago
Syphilis can ONLY be transmitted by direct contact with a sore? If someone had a chancre on their mouth sharing a drink would not be a risk? Why is that? If my mouth touch where their sore did on a cup?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
27 months ago
Sigh. You are germophobic about STDs. Do you have OCD? Are these thoughts continuing much of the time and worrying you? If so, please get professional counseling. Such symptoms can be an early sign of serious mental health disability. (For a great example, see "The Aviator", the movie biography of Howard Hughes. It's a great movie, by the way, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett. 

No these kinds of contact are not risky for syphilis. I explained the reasons in my opening reply above -- re-read the paragraph starting "Gonorrhea and other STDs...." For syphilis, the germ has to be rubbed vigorously into the tissues for infection to take hold. That's why the chancre, the initial sore of syphilis, occurs entirely at places of friction during sex, like the head of the penis in men or vaginal opening in women.

That concludes this thread, which is your second with questions of this sort. It will have to be your last. The forum does not permit repeated questions on the same topic or exposure. Future new questions about nonsexual STD risks may receive no reply and the posting fee will not be refunded. This policy is based on compassion, not criticism, and is intended to reduce temptations to keep paying for questions with obvious answers. In addition, experience shows that continued answers tend to prolong users' anxieties rather than reducing them. Finally, such questions have little educational value for other users, one of the forum's main purposes. Thanks for your understanding. 
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