GONORRHOEA infections rose in Bolton last year, figures show, as cases across England hit their highest level in over a century.

Experts say the large rise in gonorrhoea diagnoses nationally is worrying, with the sexually transmitted infection (STI) becoming more resistant to antibiotics over time.

Public Health England (PHE) figures show 170 cases of gonorrhoea were diagnosed in Bolton in 2019.

That was up by 38% from the 123 infections reported a year earlier, and the highest number since comparable local records began in 2012.

It meant the area had a gonorrhoea infection rate of 59 per 100,000 people – below the North West's average rate of 97. Across England as a whole, 126 in every 100,000 people was infected with gonorrhoea last year.

Cases across England swelled by 26% over the year to 70,936 – the highest number since records began in 1918.

The national figure includes 1,400 people who accessed services in England but lived elsewhere in the UK or abroad.

Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI in the UK after chlamydia and can sometimes be symptomless.

In Bolton, overall STI cases fell to 1,538 last year, down by 14% from 1,789 in 2018. Across England, cases rose by 5%.

PHE said the rise was likely to be due to people not using condoms correctly and consistently with new and casual partners, and an increase in testing helping improve detection of the most common infections.

Dr John McSorley, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said the year-on-year rise is "hugely concerning".

He said: "This year we have seen how crucial investment in public health services is to support the wellbeing of populations more widely, and we must consider how we can continue to improve access to services for all those who need them and those at the highest risk."

PHE said it is analysing the data to understand the impact of Covid-19 on HIV and STI services and the effect of social distancing measures on the spread of STIs.

Bridget Thomas, divisional nurse director for Sexual Health at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re pleased that our confidential sexual health services are still fully operating in Bolton and Salford, though some may be operating a little differently to ensure they are COVID secure.

"In addition we offer an online postal screening service for infections such as gonorrhoea. This highly confidential service allows us to increase the numbers of people we can test and detect more cases, particularly in at risk groups. You can visit our website for full details.”