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Risk factors for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea in men who have sex with men: an age-matched case–control study


Objectives Oropharyngeal gonorrhoea is common among men who have sex with men (MSM). We aimed to clarify which oral sex practices were independent risk factors for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea: tongue kissing, receptive oro-penile sex (fellatio) or insertive oro-anal sex (rimming), and whether daily use of mouthwash and recent antibiotic use was protective.

Methods In 2015, we conducted an age-matched case–control study of MSM who attended the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre. Cases had tested positive for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea by nucleic acid amplification testing, and controls had tested negative. Questionnaire items included tongue kissing, oral sex practices, condom use, recent antibiotic use, mouthwash use and alcohol consumption.

Results We identified 177 cases, age matched to 354 controls. In univariable analyses, cases were 1.90 times (95% CI 1.13 to 3.20) more likely than controls to have had casual sexual partners (CSP) in the preceding 3 months, were 2.17 times (95% CI 1.31 to 3.59) more likely to have kissed CSP and were 2.04 times (95% CI 1.26 to 3.30) more likely to have had receptive oro-penile sex with CSP. Oropharyngeal gonorrhoea was not associated with insertive oro-anal sex or mouthwash use. The number of CSP for tongue kissing and receptive oral sex and total CSP were highly correlated, and in multivariable analysis neither kissing nor receptive oro-penile sex was significantly associated with having oropharyngeal gonorrhoea, after adjusting for total number of CSP.

Conclusions The finding that oropharyngeal gonorrhoea was associated with a higher number of sexual partners but not specific sexual practices highlights the need for further research in the area of gonorrhoea transmission to define the probability of transmission from specific sex acts.

  • neisseria gonorrhoea
  • gay men
  • oral sex
  • homosexuality

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