STD prevention strategies into the 21st century are increasingly urgent

Dr Oriol Mitja will use European Commission grant in a jointly effort with the Fight Aids Foundation to look for alternative prevention strategies

The Barcelona Health Report was published on December 10. In 2018, the STD epidemics of gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and syphilis reached all-time highs after 5 years of dramatic increases — trends that show no sign of slowing. Barcelona leads the nation in infectious syphilis with 1099 new cases and gonorrhoea and chlamydia with 3616 new cases. Adolescents and young people 15-24 account for more than 50% of all cases. As STDs rise, innovation to address the worsening STD crisis has lagged and STD programs and clinicians are often forced to use decades-old prevention strategies, biomedical interventions and diagnostic technologies. There is a growing need for new tools to address these worsening epidemics.

As of 1st December 2019, Dr Oriol Mitjà and the Fight Aids Foundation will start an innovative research program to surmount this “growing global health crisis.” Dr. Oriol Mitjà has received a 1.5 million € grant from the European Research Council (ERC) aimed at seeking alternative treatments for syphilis. This is the result of a highly competitive process, in which more than 3,000 proposals were submitted at the European level with a success rate of only 10%.

One potential syphilis prevention strategy has been proposed, but its efficacy needs to be tested. Mitjà intends to identify a new oral antibiotic of simple administration that can be administered in the point of care immediately after diagnosis. The Fight Aids Foundation and the Catalan Health Institute are supportive of more research, specially in target populations, however, this strategy is certainly not ready for wider use.

As rates continue to climb, bringing STD prevention into the 21st century is becoming increasingly urgent. Mounting a defence against this growing threat will require continued effort of the public agencies and intensified health promotion. In addition, new investment in research is welcome and has the potential to turn the city of Barcelona into a reference in the fight against STDs, but now will take a long way in curbing the trend in the future.


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