Health12 Aug 2010 09:45 am
Gonorrhea, also colloquially referred to a “the Clap,” is the second most prevalent sexually transmitted bacterial infection (STI) in the United States (exceeded only by chlamydia). The slang term “the Clap” dates as early as 1719, but the definitive etymology of the expression remains in question. It has been dubiously suggested that the term was coined in response to the ‘clapping sensation’ that an infected individual experiences in their genitals when they urinate. Another slightly more plausible, albeit more disgusting explanation, holds that men used to attempt to treat the infection by vigorously clapping on their penis, in an effort discharge all of the puss. The third, most believable theory, links “the Clap” to a French term for brothel, “clapier.”
It is impossible to determine exactly when gonorrhea began wreak havoc on the sexually active, but the first writing that is consistent with a description of the symptoms of the disease occurred in the Acts of the (English) Parliament in 1161, when they attempted to pass a law to curb the spread of “….the perilous infirmity of burning.” Consistent with the rising prevalence of gonorrhea in the Middle Ages, European cities ordered all public health doctors to treat patients infected with the disease, regardless of their moral objections. Moreover, Pope Boniface secularized the practice of medicine, freeing physicians of the stigma of treating patients with ‘immoral’ diseases.
Mercury injections were the first known treatment for gonorrhea, leaving the unfortunate infected to ponder whether the “infirmity of the burning” was preferable to its highly toxic “cure.” Silver nitrate emerged as a slightly less dubious treatment in the 19th Century, and then was replaced by the colloidal silver Protargol until the first antibiotics came into use in the 1940s. Penicillin was the wonder drug of choice in the war against “the Clap” until the 1970s, when some strains of the bacteria began to show resistance. Since then, antibiotic resistance has been managed by treating the infection with a combination of different drugs. However, in response to the emergence of seemingly invincible strains of the disease, the CDC recently added gonorrhea to its list of “super bugs” which are resistant to most common antibiotics.
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