OBJECTIVE--To study the epidemiology of Neisseria gonorrhoeae that exhibit both chromosomal and plasmid-mediated resistance to penicillin. MATERIALS AND METHODS--A total of 1589 strains of N gonorrhoeae isolated from patients attending St Mary's Hospital, London were tested for both their susceptibility to penicillin and for their auxotype and serotype. RESULTS--Of the 940 non-penicillinase producing N gonorrhoeae, 840 were considered penicillin sensitive (MIC less than or equal to 0.5 mg/l) and 100 were chromosomally-mediated resistant N gonorrhoeae (CMRNG), (MIC greater than or equal to 1.0 mg/l). Of the 649 penicillinase producing N gonorrhoeae (PPNG), 429 carried the 4.4 megadalton (MDa) penicillinase encoding plasmid and 220 carried the 3.2 MDa plasmid. CMRNG were predominantly serogroup IB (90%). PPNG with 3.2 MDa plasmid were the only group more often serogroup IA (58%) than IB (42%). Serovar IA-1/2 and requirement for arginine, hypoxanthine and uracil (AHU) were associated with increased susceptibility to penicillin whereas serovar IB-5/7 was associated with decreased susceptibility in nonPPNG. There was a significant difference in the distribution of the IA and IB serovars between PPNG carrying either the 4.4 MDa or 3.2 MDa plasmid. AHU and PAOU requiring strains were not found among PPNG and were uncommon among CMRNG. CONCLUSION--Some clear associations have been found but the pattern among PPNG appears more complex and in most instances could be related to clusters of a single strain over a short time span.
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