Dangerous Emerging Diseases to Watch Out for in 2019

Since the 1960s, the term «emerging disease» has been used to describe diseases new for human population, or affecting a rapidly growing number of people and geographic areas. It was the outbreaks of AIDS and genital herpes in the late 1970s and early 1980s which made this term widely used.

Emerging diseases as a threat to humanity

Scientists discover new diseases or record outbreaks of old ones, which were thought to be left in the past and forgotten. There are several reasons for emerging and re-emerging diseases. First of all, the diagnostic methods and disease registry systems are being improved. Due to the increasing population and mobility, humanity is exploring new territories and is encountering new viruses and bacteria, which are easily spreading to different continents thanks to air travel. The viruses of bats, monkeys, civets and other exotic animals enter our body and become our problems. This brought the epidemics of Zika, HIV, Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers, respiratory syndromes, and dozens of new exotic diseases, which affected the human population, rapidly multiplying and exploring new territories over the past 70 years. Experts believe this is only the beginning and in the near future thousands of yet unknown pathogenic microbes will be discovered.

On the other hand, the microgerms evolve, become more persistent and immune to antibiotics. Not only bacteria, but also viruses, microscopic fungi and simple organisms such as amoeba also acquire tolerance to drugs and stop responding to treatment. This is how nature works: during the last few billion years, the microbial community evolved mechanisms helping them to survive. When a certain bacterium acquires qualities allowing it to cope with several antibiotics at once, it turns into a drug-resistant super-bacteria (superbug), which is very dangerous for humans since often there is no treatment against it.

People with their own efforts contribute to the revival of already forgotten diseases with a growing rate of vaccination refusal. Refusing vaccination is one of the greatest mistakes of our time — once again, measles appeared in Europe, poliomyelitis in South America, long-defeated diphtheria, whooping cough and others pose a threat to humanity. The general situation with infections is considered severe: with tens of millions of affected, there are several parallel pandemics on the planet. Environmental degradation, primarily air pollution, is also gaining a rapidly growing share among the modern disease causes.

In 2019, the World Health Organization published an annual report on the most dangerous infectious threats to date. Ebola, the opioid epidemic, candida auris, HIV and dengue fever, as well as antibiotic resistance and vaccine hesitancy are leading the list this year. To protect oneself from danger, it is highly recommended to apply safeguard measures, which include HIV prevention, receiving seasonal influenza vaccines, getting full basic immunization for children, and taking precautions when traveling to countries with an increased incidence of infections (using personal protective equipment, such as window mosquito nets, long-sleeved clothing, repellents, insecticide-treated materials, spirals and evaporators). Canadian Drugstore reports the dramatic increase in sales of preventive medications protecting from these new diseases, which signals the level of concern among customers.

New dangerous STDs in 2019

Among the emerging diseases, there are many less-known ailments that spread rapidly and evolve to become more resistant to treatment. In 2019, four new sexually transmitted diseases are reported to pose a serious danger to human health.

1. Meningococcus

Neisseria meningitidis bacteria are causing meningococcal infection, which can lead to deadly damage to the mucous membrane and meninges surrounding the central nervous system. Previously, meningococcal infection was mainly associated with meningitis, inflammation of meninges, which often had a fatal outcome. However, now it is increasingly referred to the urogenital type of infections.

About 7% of adults are reported to be infected with the bacteria. Typically, Neisseria meningitidis live in the nasopharynx and are transmitted during oral sex. Outbreaks of the disease are reported in Europe, Canada and the United States.

Scientists have discovered that the strain which caused outbreaks in several cities in the US was formed by genetic recombination with a similar infection, gonococcus, which causes gonorrhea. This strain is characterized by increased contagiousness, that is, spreads faster than others. The five types of Neisseria meningitidis cause most cases of disease worldwide. Fortunately, there are two vaccines that work effectively against all five types of bacteria.

2. Mycoplasma genitalia

Mycoplasma genitalium is one of the smallest bacteria, but the disease it causes is one of the most dangerous sexually transmitted infections. It became known in the 1980s, and at the moment, 1–2% of the world’s population, mainly teenagers and young people, carry the disease. Often the infection is asymptomatic, or show symptoms of gonorrhea or chlamydia, such as urethra or cervix inflammation.

Since mycoplasma can provoke pelvic inflammation in women, it can have severe consequences, including infertility, miscarriage, premature birth and a frozen pregnancy. Although condoms protect against the infection, doctors are concerned that mycoplasma genitalium is developing resistance to antibiotics such as azithromycin and doxycycline. This microgerm is becoming increasingly resistant and the infection is becoming more common. Scientists hope that timely diagnosis and early treatment will help prevent mycoplasma genitalium from turning into a superbug.

3. Shigella flexneri

Shigellosis is a group of diseases caused by Shigella bacteria, with a fecal-oral transmission mechanism. Shigella flexneri infection results in dysentery, which causes severe stomach cramps and bouts of diarrhea mixed with blood and mucus. It was believed that children and people traveling to poor countries were more prone to the disease. However, since the 1970s, cases of shigellosis were increasingly recorded among homosexual and bisexual people. In these cases, the bacteria are thought to be transmitted during anal and oral sex. With a new path of infection, outbreaks of the disease have been reported worldwide.

The sexually transmitted disease is also becoming resistant to antibiotics, including azithromycin, which is used to treat gonorrhea. Experts are concerned that the use of antibiotics to treat various types of shigellosis can potentially lead to appearance of a superbug, so more sophisticated treatments without using antibiotics were developed for this STD.

4. Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

This disease is caused by a rare strain of Chlamydia trachomatis. First, abscesses and ulcers appear in the genital area, then the infection penetrates the lymphatic system. A disease can resemble an inflammatory bowel disease and lead to chronic and severe disruptions in its functions. Over the past 10 years, lymphogranuloma venereum has become a fairly common disease in Europe and North America. As in the case of chlamydia, this disease increases the risk of HIV. The use of condoms reduces the risk of contracting the infection. LGV treatment usually involves a three-week antibiotic course.