Background. The use of nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) to diagnose Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections complicates the performance of a test of cure (TOC) to monitor treatment failure, if this is indicated. As evidence for the timing of TOC using modern NAATs is limited, we performed a prospective cohort study to assess time to clearance when using modern RNA- and DNA-based NAATs.
Methods. We included patients with anogenital gonorrhoea visiting the Sexually Transmitted Infection Clinic Amsterdam from March through October 2014. After treatment with ceftriaxone mono- or dual therapy (with azithromycin or doxycycline), anal, vaginal, or urine samples were self-collected during 28 consecutive days, and analyzed using an RNA-based NAAT (Aptima Combo 2) and a DNA-based NAAT (Cobas 4800). Clearance was defined as 3 consecutive negative results, and blips as isolated positive results following clearance.
Results. We included 77 patients; 5 self-cleared gonorrhoea before treatment and 10 were lost to follow-up. Clearance rate of the remaining 62 patients was 100%. Median time to clearance was 2 days, with a range of 1–7 days for RNA-based NAAT and 1–15 days for DNA-based NAAT. The risk of finding a blip after clearance was 0.8% and 1.5%, respectively. One patient had a reinfection.
Conclusions. If indicated, we recommend that TOC be performed for anogenital gonorrhoea at least 7 or 14 days after administering therapy, when using modern RNA- or DNA-based NAATs, respectively. When interpreting TOC results for possible treatment failure, both the occurrence of blips and a possible reinfection need to be taken into account.