A draft recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could advise doctors to prescribe the antibiotic doxycycline, after unprotected sex, to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Photo courtesy of San Francisco AIDS Foundation
Oct. 3 (UPI) -- A draft recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could advise doctors to prescribe a strong antibiotic, after unprotected sex, to prevent sexually transmitted infections including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Doxycycline, which could be used as a morning-after pill to prevent STI's, would only be recommended for men who have sex with men and transgender women, according to the proposed guidelines announced Monday by the CDC.
"The purpose of the proposed guidelines is to provide updated clinical guidance for healthcare providers to inform the use of doxycycline PEP for preventing bacterial STI infections," the CDC said. PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis.
Final guidelines will not be released until the agency gathers public comment through Nov. 16.
It "allows us to gather important input before finalizing guidance, and gives clinical providers, people affected by STIs and partner organizations the opportunity to weigh in before our guidance is finalized," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC's National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, wrote in an email to CNN.
While doxycycline -- which inhibits bacterial growth -- is currently prescribed to treat STIs after an infection, researchers say 200mg of the drug may prevent infections if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
According to CDC data, prevention is desperately needed as STIs hit a record high in 2021, with syphilis hitting its highest numbers in more than 70 years and gonorrhea and chlamydia rates climbing 4% over the previous year.
"It's going to take game-changing innovations for us to turn the STI epidemic around. And Doxy-PEP is the first major new prevention intervention we have for STIs in decades," Mermin said, adding that if approved, the drug could prevent tens of thousands of infections.
"The good news about doxycycline though is that it is a fairly cheap drug. It's a drug that's been around for a long time," said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. "So this is unlike what we see with some HIV medications that are very, very expensive."