The Infections in the History of Medicine

Gonorrhea, a current disease with ancient roots: from the remedies of the past to future perspectives
Vicentini Chiara Beatrice, Manfredini Stefano, Meritati Martina, Di Nuzzo Mariachiara, Contini Carlo
Gonorrhea can be traced back to the earliest records of the human race even if Albert Neisser first described gonococcus in 1879. The Romans, Jews and Arabs all have documents referring to gonorrhea and each society had their own description of symptoms and treatment. The Roman physician Galen in 130 AD described the disease as an “involuntary escape of semen”. The word itself derives from the Greek, meaning “the flow of seed”. Gonorrhea is currently the second most commonly notifiable sexually transmitted infection (STI) reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), second only to chlamydial infection. Gonorrhea notifications have been on the rise all over the world and in several European countries since the early 2000s, particularly in populations with higher frequency of spread of STIs, such as men who have sex with men and young heterosexual individuals of both sexes. Having been recognized at least 3500 years ago, the fight against the disease began infinitely before the antibiotic era, using healing compounds. In the absence of an ideal vaccine, the most important challenge today is the emergence of the multidrug-resistant gonorrhea, which is currently the main reason for public concern responsible for the evolution of N. gonorrheae into a superbug. N. gonorrheae strains resistant to extended spectrum cephalosporin (ESC) form a threat to effective control of gonorrhea for which there are currently ongoing clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy and safety profile of old and new antimicrobial molecules for monotherapy and as dual therapy of gonorrhea. In this paper we investigated the remedies and treatments employed against gonorrhea during the 19th century in Ferrara, referring to Campana’s Pharmacopoeia and unpublished manuscripts concerning the treatment of this disease in medical practice. The remedies for gonorrhea adopted in the city were in line with those utilized in other countries. Among these, copaiba oleoresins have been demonstrated to have been efficacious in the past against gonococcal disease in popular medical use and, recently, against a large number of bacteria, fungi and protozoa, which will call for more in vitro and clinical studies to evaluate their real effectiveness on the N. gonorrheae bacterium.

Page 212-221 - Vol.27 N. 2 - 2019