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Sampling technique is important for optimal isolation of pharyngeal gonorrhoea
  1. M Mitchell1,
  2. V Rane1,
  3. C K Fairley1,2,
  4. D M Whiley3,4,
  5. C S Bradshaw1,2,5,
  6. M Bissessor1,
  7. M Y Chen1,2
  1. 1Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, Carlton, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4Queensland Paediatric Infectious Diseases Laboratory, Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane Herston, Queensland, Australia
  5. 5Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marcus Chen, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, 580 Swanston Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia; mchen{at}


Background Culture is insensitive for the detection of pharyngeal gonorrhoea but isolation is pivotal to antimicrobial resistance surveillance. The aim of this study was to ascertain whether recommendations provided to clinicians (doctors and nurses) on pharyngeal swabbing technique could improve gonorrhoea detection rates and to determine which aspects of swabbing technique are important for optimal isolation.

Methods This study was undertaken at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Australia. Detection rates among clinicians for pharyngeal gonorrhoea were compared before (June 2006–May 2009) and after (June 2009–June 2012) recommendations on swabbing technique were provided. Associations between detection rates and reported swabbing technique obtained via a clinician questionnaire were examined.

Results The overall yield from testing before and after provision of the recommendations among 28 clinicians was 1.6% (134/8586) and 1.8% (264/15 046) respectively (p=0.17). Significantly higher detection rates were seen following the recommendations among clinicians who reported a change in their swabbing technique in response to the recommendations (2.1% vs 1.5%; p=0.004), swabbing a larger surface area (2.0% vs 1.5%; p=0.02), applying more swab pressure (2.5% vs 1.5%; p<0.001) and a change in the anatomical sites they swabbed (2.2% vs 1.5%; p=0.002). The predominant change in sites swabbed was an increase in swabbing of the oropharynx: from a median of 0% to 80% of the time.

Conclusions More thorough swabbing improves the isolation of pharyngeal gonorrhoea using culture. Clinicians should receive training to ensure swabbing is performed with sufficient pressure and that it covers an adequate area that includes the oropharynx.

  • Gonorrhoea
  • Testing
  • Neisseria Gonorrhoea

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