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Original research
Spontaneous clearance of genital and extragenital Neisseria gonorrhoeae: data from GToG


Objectives Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) infection can resolve without antibiotic treatment, however the literature describing the frequency of clearance at individual sites, how rapidly it occurs and potential predictive factors is limited. In this analysis of a subpopulation identified from a large multicentre UK cohort, we describe the overall rate of spontaneous clearance of infection and explore factors associated with this.

Methods Data from the Gentamicin compared with Ceftriaxone for the Treatment of Gonorrhoea randomised controlled trial consisting of 720 patients with NG were analysed. A subgroup of individuals had both a pretrial test sample and a trial enrolment sample taken. Those who had cleared NG between initial presentation and subsequent entry into the trial without antibiotic treatment were deemed to have spontaneously cleared. Sociodemographic characteristics, sexual history and sites of infection for those who spontaneously cleared infection were compared with that of those who did not. We also estimated the time interval to clearance.

Results Overall, the proportion who had spontaneous clearance was 20.5% (83/405). Clearance of infection occurred over a median of 10 days (IQR 7–15 days). The cohort who spontaneously cleared were similar to those who did not in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, HIV status and previous NG infection. Chlamydia coinfection was more frequent in the ‘no spontaneous clearance group’ (11.1% (9/83) cf 22.0% (69/322)) (p=0.029). Dysuria was reported more often in the ‘no spontaneous clearance group’ (4.8% (4/83) cf 13.0% (42/322)) (p=0.035).

Conclusion We present data from a large cohort of NG-infected individuals, of whom a significant proportion had spontaneous clearance of infection. This is consistent with previous smaller studies. If this is indicative of cure, point-of-care testing prior to treatment has the potential to reduce unnecessary exposure to antimicrobials. Further work to assess the importance of bacterial load, genotype and host immune response on spontaneous clearance of infection is required.

Trial registration number ISRCTN51783227

  • gonorrhoea
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • treatment
  • antibiotics
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