Tracing subsequent dissemination of a cluster of gonococcal infections caused by an ST1407-related clone harbouring mosaic penA alleles in Taiwan

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Successful clones of Neisseria gonorrhoeae multiantigen sequence typing sequence type (ST) 1407 and ST1407-related genotypes have been reported to cause cefixime and ceftriaxone treatment failure in many countries. We characterized the 47 isolates of a strain cluster of ST4378, a genotype that differs in the porB sequence by only one nucleotide from ST1407, in Taiwan during April 2006 to June 2012.


We identified 47 ST4378 isolates among our 2357 total isolates from the Gonococci-National Isolate Collection for Epidemiology. The corresponding patients' medical records were collected. The 47 isolates were further typed by multilocus sequence typing. Genes involved in β-lactam (ponA), quinolone (gyrA and parC) and multidrug (mtrR, porB1b and pilQ) resistance were sequenced. Antimicrobial susceptibility was determined by the disc diffusion test and Etest.


Cefixime MICs for the 47 isolates ranged from 0.016 to 0.19 mg/L and ceftriaxone MICs ranged from 0.012 to 0.094 mg/L. Forty-six of the 47 isolates had a mosaic penA allele type XXXIV and one had a new allele type XL, which appeared to be a recombinant of mosaic penA type XXXIV and non-mosaic penA type II. All of the isolates harboured nearly identical polymorphism in the ponA, gyrA, parC, mtrR, porB1b and pilQ genes. Among the 33 patients with known medical records, 25 (76%) were men who have sex with men (MSM), 3 (9%) were bisexual and 5 (15%) were heterosexual. Fourteen (42%) of the 33 patients had HIV, 8 (24%) had syphilis and 7 (21%) had both infections.


This is the first report of a cluster of ST1407-related strains in Taiwan. ST4378 is a genotype that may develop to cause third-generation cephalosporin treatment failures. Our results showed that ST4378 strains primarily transmitted in a high-risk MSM/bisexual network. The potential of these strains to become untreatable and spread to other low-risk sexual networks should be closely monitored.

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