Objectives: To compare a nucleic acid amplification test (ligase chain reaction) with culture for detecting rectal and pharyngeal gonorrhoea in men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods: Duplicate rectal and throat swabs from MSM attending a genitourinary medicine clinic were collected for culture on modified New York City medium and detection of gonococcal nucleic acid by the Abbott ligase chain reaction (LCR) utilising probes based on opa 1 gene sequences. LCR positive culture negative specimens were tested by a second LCR utilising probes based on pilin gene sequences. Patients with rectal and/or pharyngeal cultures yielding Gram negative diplococci confirmed as Neisseria gonorrhoeae by biochemical and immunological methods were diagnosed with rectal and/or pharyngeal gonorrhoea. The criteria for diagnosing rectal and pharyngeal infection by LCR included a positive opa LCR with a positive culture from the same site or, in the case of a negative culture, a positive opa LCR and a positive pilin LCR.
Results: Duplicate rectal samples were obtained from 227 MSM. The results of LCR and culture were concordant in 219 samples (96.5%). The prevalence of rectal gonorrhoea by LCR and culture was 7.0% (16/227) and 4.0% (9/227), respectively. Duplicate throat samples were obtained from 251 MSM. The results of LCR and culture were concordant in 230 (91.6%) cases. The prevalence of pharyngeal gonorrhoea by LCR and culture was 12.7% (32/251) and 6.0% (15/251), respectively. The specificity of LCR was 99.5% (210/211) for rectal and 98.2% (215/219) for pharyngeal specimens.
Conclusions: The high prevalence and asymptomatic nature of pharyngeal and rectal gonococcal infection suggests that routine screening for infection at these sites by a nucleic acid amplification test method such as LCR should be considered as part of the overall strategy to control gonorrhoea in MSM.
- ligase chain reaction
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