London – The Covid-19 pandemic, despite lockdown and social distancing norms, did not inhibit risky sexual behaviours and researchers found that acute sexually transmitted infections (STIs) actually spiked during the lockdown period, along with increasing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 virus contagion.
The research, conducted in two main STI centres in Milan, Italy, found that despite the lockdown restrictions, diagnosis of STIs, including gonorrhoea, secondary syphilis and mycoplasma genitalium (MG) have increased.
“It was assumed that the lockdown would reduce the opportunity for sexual encounters and STIs. However, I was surprised by the number of new acute infections diagnosed in this short period of time,” said Dr Marco Cusini from Policlinico di Milano hospital in Milano, Italy.
Gonhorrhea and syphillis are typically more prevalent in people in their 30s, so infection may have increased because the concentration of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality in the elderly made the younger, more active, cohort feel protected and so less risk averse.
“While it is unrealistic to prevent people from having sex, even in this extraordinary pandemic, close contact during sexual intercourse inevitably involves an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 contagion,” Cusini said.
WATCH: Sex during coronavirus
The research compared the number of confirmed diagnoses of the most common STIs in patients with symptoms for the period March 15 to April 15, following social isolation measures (lockdown) adopted to control the epidemic, with the same period in 2019.
The results, presented at the 29th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology virtual conference, revealed the number of acute bacterial infections increased during the observational period, including secondary syphilis and gonorrhea.
“The findings show the importance of ongoing screening for STIs and the real benefit of having these types of services open and available during these unprecedented times,” the authors wrote.