OBJECTIVES: To establish the in vitro susceptibility of gonococci isolated in the London area to antibiotics in current therapeutic use and to establish a sentinel surveillance system for monitoring trends in antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea in London. METHODS: Isolates of Neisseria gonorrhoeae from consecutive patients attending genitourinary medicine clinics at 10 hospitals in the London area were collected over a 3 month period, May to July 1997. The susceptibility to penicillin, ciprofloxacin, tetracycline, and spectinomycin was determined for each isolate. Isolates exhibiting either plasmid or chromosomally mediated resistance were additionally tested for susceptibility to agents used as alternative treatments including azithromycin, ceftriazone, and ofloxacin. The resistant isolates were also tested for plasmid profiles (penicillinase producing N gonorrhoeae, PPNG), type of tetM determinant (tetracycline resistant N gonorrhoeae, TRNG), and presence of gyrA and parC mutations (quinolone resistant N gonorrhoeae, QRNG). RESULTS: A total of 1133 isolates were collected which represents > 95% of the total gonococci isolated in the 3 months. Plasmid mediated resistance was exhibited by 48 (4.2%) isolates; six (0.5%) were PPNG, 15 (1.3%) were PP/TRNG, and 27 (2.4%) were TRNG. The majority of PPNG (18 of 20 tested) carried the 3.2 MDa penicillinase plasmid whereas the two types of tetM determinant were more evenly distributed. High level resistance to ciprofloxacin was detected in four (0.4%) isolates and double mutations were found in the quinolone resistance determining region (QRDR) of the gyrA gene in three QRNG with MICs of 16 mg/l and a single mutation in one isolate with a MIC of 1 mg/l to ciprofloxacin. No parC mutations were found. Of the remaining 1081 isolates, 86 (8.0%) were chromosomally mediated resistant N gonorrhoeae (CMRNG). CONCLUSIONS: A unique collection of gonococcal isolates has been established which can be used as a baseline for surveillance of susceptibility to antibiotics and for epidemiological purposes.
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