OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the evidence for value of using epidemiological treatment and of using tests of cure in the management of gonococcal infections. METHODS: Medline was used to search the literature for well-conducted studies that had a bearing on the evaluation of these issues. CONCLUSIONS: Epidemiological treatment is treatment given to named contacts of patients after a history of exposure to disease but without or in advance of confirmatory pathological findings. It may be given when the clinician considers that the risk to the patient of unnecessary treatment is outweighed by the risk of complications of the infection or the probability of transmission of the infection to other contacts. It may be appropriate where detection by microscopy is relatively unreliable such as when infection of the cervix, rectum, or pharynx is suspected. If epidemiological treatment is given, then it does not obviate the need for confirmatory tests to be sent, tests of cure to be done, or for contact tracing. At least one test of cure is mandatory following treatment of gonorrhoea. The test of cure in women should include a blind rectal swab. For infection of the pharynx and rectum the chances of a false negative test of cure are higher and, therefore, more than one test of cure is required. An additional test of cure is also necessary in patients with salpingitis or disseminated gonococcal infection. This paper is a discussion of two interrelated issues in the management of gonorrhoea. It is based on two presentations by the author at a workshop organised by Dr Mark Fitzgerald entitled Development of audit measures and guidelines for good practice in the management of gonorrhoea and held at the Royal College of Physicians, London, in May 1995. The conclusions reached are based on the consensus view of the participants. For simplicity the two issues are dealt with consecutively.
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