In Australia, gonorrhea rates have tripled between 2008 and 2017 from 36 to 118 notifications per 100,000 people, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
"Understanding how transmitted is the key to understanding how to control it. If transmission by kisses is a key transmission path, it is important to investigate new methods of control," Professor Fairleysaid said.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can affect the urinary tract of the penis, as well as the throat, the cervix and the anus. In general, there are only symptoms of gonorrhea in the penis, which include discharge and irritation similar to pus when urinating. Professor Fairley said that this is an important aspect of his argument, since these symptoms favor rapid treatment.
"The importance of this is that when the transmission occurs, people discover it very quickly and, therefore, they are treated, so there is not much chance of passing it," he said.
"The reason why the rate of gonorrhea is so high in men who have sex with men is because transmission does not always involve the penis and, therefore, symptoms do not always appear."
Professor Handsfield, an expert in sexually transmitted infections, said that the research accepted showed the transmission of gonorrhea to the penis and that transmission through kisses or saliva during oral sex was "rarely rare."
"All available research or basic understanding has been that, but the transmission is less efficient," he said.
However, Professor Fairley said that an example of a gonorrhea outbreak in a music festival among seven people who had some type of sexual contact, including kisses, prompted their argument.
"There were six cases of gonococci in the throat that were transmitted among them, with the same type of gonorrhea. None of these seven people had genital gonorrhea," he said.
"I do not know how he got into six goals if he did not get there by kissing him."
Professor Handsfield said Professor Fairley's research on the importance of oral transmission would probably prove to be correct in the future, but not according to what the Melbourne team says.
"I think they are in something, I think they are posing questions that deserve careful research that the world has to take seriously, but I do not believe that their research shows that oral infection accounts for more than half of men who have sex with men , "Professor Handsfield said.
Professor Fairley's argument is being published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases on Thursday.
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Rachel Clun is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.