Objective: To analyse the enhanced data for gonorrhoea cases in England and Wales collected by the Gonococcal Resistance to Antimicrobials Surveillance Programme (GRASP) to better inform health policy and targeted interventions.
Methods: GRASP data obtained annually from sentinel genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics between June to August during 2001–6 were analysed.
Results: A total of 12 282 cases of gonorrhoea were reported during the study period, with a decline over time primarily in heterosexual patients of black ethnicity. 73% of women, 47% of heterosexual men and 22% of men who have sex with men (MSM) were aged under 25. Most infected women reported a single sexual partner in the previous 3 months, whereas most heterosexual men and MSM reported two or more partners. A history of gonorrhoea was reported by 42% of MSM, 30% of heterosexual men and 20% of women. Excluding HIV, women were more likely than men to have a concurrent STI at diagnosis, most commonly chlamydia (50% vs 27% p<0.0005). Rectal gonococcal infections were reported in 35% and HIV co-infection in 31% of MSM. Compared to HIV negative MSM, those co-infected with HIV were older (median 35 years vs 28 years) and were more likely to attend a London site (70% vs 52%, p<0.0005); have a concurrent sexually transmitted infection (STI) (28% vs 20%, p = 0.002); have a history of gonorrhoea (66% vs 36%, p<0.0005) and have more sexual partners (average 6.8 vs 4.3).
Conclusion: Gonorrhoea is concentrated within specific groups who are at high risk of repeat infections and concurrent STIs including HIV. Targeted interventions of proved effectiveness are urgently required.
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Funding: GRASP has been funded totally (2000–2004) and partially (2005–2007) by the Department of Health (London). The views expressed in the publication are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the UK Department of Health.
Competing interests: None.
Contributors: VD, CI and GH have been involved with the supervision of GRASP and IM has been involved with the testing of samples and supervision of the laboratory work. TN, IM, VD and LJ undertook data analysis for the manuscript. TN has maintained the dataset since 2000 and performed yearly analyses. VD, IM, CI and GH were responsible for the drafting and editing of the manuscript. All authors have seen and approved the final version.