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Original research
Comparison of the patterns of chlamydia and gonorrhoea at the oropharynx, anorectum and urethra among men who have sex with men


Objective Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are common sexually transmitted infections that infect the oropharynx, anorectum and urethra in men who have sex with men (MSM). This study aimed to examine the pattern of infection at more than one site (multisite) for chlamydia and gonorrhoea among MSM.

Methods This was a retrospective study of MSM attending the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre for the first time between 2018 and 2019. We included MSM aged ≥16 years who had tested for Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis at all three sites (oropharynx, anorectum and urethra). We compared infections that occurred at a single site (termed single-site infection) and those that occurred at more than one site (termed multisite infections).

Results Of the 3938 men who were tested for chlamydia and gonorrhoea, 498/3938 men (12.6%, 95% CI 11.5% to 13.6%) had chlamydia at any site, of whom 400/498 (80.3%, 95% CI 78.9% to 81.2%) had single-site chlamydia infection, and 98/498 (19.7%, 95% CI 16.2% to 23.1%) had multisite infections. A similar proportion of men had gonorrhoea at any site (447/3938, 11.4%, 95% CI 10.3% to 12.2%), but among these 447 men, single-site infection was less common (256/447, 57.3%, 95% CI 52.6% to 61.7%, p<0.001) and multisite infection (191/447, 42.7%, 95% CI 38.2% to 47.3%, p<0.001) was more common than chlamydia. There were also marked differences by anatomical site. Urethral infection commonly occurred as single sites (75/122, 61.5%, 95% CI 52.8% to 70.1%) for chlamydia but uncommonly occurred for gonorrhoea (12/100, 12.0%, 95% CI 5.6% to 18.3%, p<0.001). In contrast, anorectal infection uncommonly occurred as multisite infection for chlamydia (98/394, 24.9%, 95% CI 20.6% to 29.1%) but was common (184/309, 59.5%, 95% CI 54.0% to 64.9%, p<0.001) for gonorrhoea.

Conclusions The markedly different pattern of site-specific infection for chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections among the same MSM suggests significant differences in the transmissibility between anatomical sites and the duration of each infection at each site.

  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • chlamydia infection
  • sexual health
  • men
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