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Will targeting oropharyngeal gonorrhoea delay the further emergence of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae strains?


Gonorrhoea is an important sexually transmitted infection associated with serious complications and enhanced HIV transmission. Oropharyngeal infections are often asymptomatic and will only be detected by screening. Gonococcal culture has low sensitivity (<50%) for detecting oropharyngeal gonorrhoea, and, although not yet approved commercially, nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) are the assay of choice. Screening for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea should be performed in high-risk populations, such as men-who-have-sex-with-men(MSM). NAATs have a poor positive predictive value when used in low-prevalence populations. Gonococci have repeatedly thwarted gonorrhoea control efforts since the first antimicrobial agents were introduced. The oropharyngeal niche provides an enabling environment for horizontal transfer of genetic material from commensal Neisseria and other bacterial species to Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This has been the mechanism responsible for the generation of mosaic penA genes, which are responsible for most of the observed cases of resistance to extended-spectrum cephalosporins (ESC). As antimicrobial-resistant gonorrhoea is now an urgent public health threat, requiring improved antibiotic stewardship, laboratory-guided recycling of older antibiotics may help reduce ESC use. Future trials of antimicrobial agents for gonorrhoea should be powered to test their efficacy at the oropharynx as this is the anatomical site where treatment failure is most likely to occur. It remains to be determined whether a combination of frequent screening of high-risk individuals and/or laboratory-directed fluoroquinolone therapy of oropharyngeal gonorrhoea will delay the further emergence of drug-resistant N. gonorrhoeae strains.


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