European health officials have reported a ‘troubling surge’ in sexually transmitted infections (STI), with gonorrhoea cases rising by almost half.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said there had also been a significant increase in cases of syphilis and chlamydia.

A report reviewing STI infections in Europe in 2022 found that the number of cases of gonorrhoea rose by 48% to more than 70,000.

Cases of syphilis increased by 34% to more than 35,000, and chlamydia by 16% to more than 216,000, figures show.

Substantial increases in cases of lymphogranuloma venereum and congenital syphilis caused by transmission from mother to foetus were also seen, the ECDC annual report said.

It highlights the public health need for robust prevention, access to testing, and effective treatment, the report concluded.

Individuals are also being asked to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their partners amidst the growing number of infections being detected.

This includes getting tested before having sex without a condom and seeking medical advice as soon as an STI is suspected.

There are a number of potential reasons for the sustained rise in STIs, the ECDC said, including better surveillance and a rise in home-testing as well as an increase in riskier sexual behaviour.

Officials also noted a leap in infections among young heterosexual people, particularly young women, which could be due to a change in sexual behaviour post-pandemic, the EU agency said.

The ECDC data has not included the UK since 2020 due to Brexit. But reports from the UK Health Security Agency have also suggested rising cases.

Last year the UKHSA said UK numbers of the sexually transmitted gonorrhoea were at their highest level since records began in 1918.

And in November, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended UK vaccination programmes for prevention of both gonorrhoea and mpox. 

ECDC director Andrea Ammon, expressed ‘deep concern’ over the rising STI rates saying it needs immediate attention.

‘Addressing the substantial increases in STI cases demands urgent attention and concerted efforts.

‘Testing, treatment and prevention lie at the heart of any long-term strategy.

‘We must prioritise sexual health education, expand access to testing and treatment services, and combat the stigma associated with STIs.’

A version of this article was first published by our sister title Pulse and Nursing in Practice.