Can Previous First-Line Therapies for Neisseria gonorrhoeae Be Targeted to Specific Patient Subgroups to Treat Gonorrhea?

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Gonorrhea treatment is challenging because of the emergence of resistance, treatment failure with existing drugs, and the lack of alternative agents. This study investigates the feasibility of targeting previously recommended antimicrobials to specific population subgroups where the prevalence of infection susceptible to these antimicrobials is above the World Health Organization cautionary treatment threshold of 95%.


Descriptive data from the Gonococcal Resistance to Antimicrobials Surveillance Programme for England and Wales were analyzed to investigate patient characteristics associated with infection with susceptible isolates using univariate and multivariable analyses.


Of 6173 isolates from 2007 to 2011, 4684 (82%) were susceptible to penicillin, 3899 (68%) to ciprofloxacin, and 5240 (91%) to cefixime. All subgroups of the MSM population had fewer than 95% of isolates susceptible to penicillin, ciprofloxacin, or cefixime. Higher proportions of isolates from heterosexual patient subgroups were susceptible to these antimicrobials. Multivariable models identified the following associations between patient characteristics and infection with susceptible isolates: patients aged 13 to 24 years (penicillin: 92.3% susceptible adjusted odds ratio and associated 95% confidence interval [aOR CI] 1.84–2.97; ciprofloxacin: 88.3%, aOR CI 2.22–3.39; cefixime: 98.7%, aOR CI 1.29–3.52) patients of black ethnicity (penicillin: 93.9%, aOR CI 2.72–4.91; ciprofloxacin: 92.0%, aOR CI 3.94–6.7; cefixime: 99.1%, aOR CI 1.78–6.4), and patients with concurrent chlamydia (penicillin: 93.9%, aOR CI 1.8–3.22; ciprofloxacin: 91.7%, aOR CI 2.71–4.58; cefixime: 99.0%, aOR CI 1.27–4.54).


This study demonstrated that of the previous first-line therapies, cefixime would be the only antimicrobial suitable for use for infection in heterosexual patients alone.

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