Background: The percentage of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates resistant to antimicrobial agents commonly used for treatment is unknown in many Caribbean countries.
Goal: To determine the antimicrobial susceptibility of N gonorrhoeae isolates from Trinidad (144 isolates), Guyana (70 isolates), and St. Vincent (68 isolates) so baseline data can be established for further studies, and to assist in establishing effective treatment guidelines.
Study design: Consecutive urethral and endocervical specimens from several clinics were collected and identified as N gonorrhoeae. Isolates of N gonorrhoeae were tested for their susceptibility to penicillin, tetracycline, ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, spectinomycin, and azithromycin. The presumptive identification of penicillinase-producing N gonorrhoeae and/or tetracycline-resistant N gonorrhoeae isolates based on MIC was confirmed by plasmid and tetM content analysis.
Results: High percentages of penicillin and/or tetracycline resistance were observed in N gonorrhoeae isolates from Guyana (92.9%), St. Vincent (44.1%), and Trinidad (42.4%). Isolates from all three countries were susceptible to ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, and spectinomycin. One penicillinase-producing N gonorrhoeae/tetracycline-resistant N gonorrhoeae from Guyana had an MIC of 0.5 microg/l to ciprofloxacin. This and nine other isolates from Guyana also were resistant to azithromycin (defined as MIC > or = 2.0 microg/ml) as well as penicillin and tetracycline. A reduced susceptibility to azithromycin was displayed by 16% of the isolates from St. Vincent and 72% of the isolates from Guyana (MIC, 0.25-1.0 microg/ml). Most penicillinase-producing N gonorrhoeae isolates carried Africa-type plasmids (61/90), with 28 of 90 having Toronto-type plasmids and a single isolate carrying an Asia-type plasmid. The tetM determinant in tetracycline-resistant N gonorrhoeae isolates was predominantly of the Dutch type (68/91).
Conclusions: The high prevalence of N gonorrhoeae isolates from 3 of 21 English- and Dutch-speaking Caricom countries in the Caribbean with either plasmid-mediated or chromosomal resistance to penicillin and tetracycline supports international observations that these drugs should not be used to treat gonococcal infections. The detection of isolates with reduced susceptibility to drugs such as azithromycin, which currently are recommended for treatment in the region, attest to the importance of the continued monitoring of gonococcal antimicrobial susceptibility for the maintenance of effective treatment guidelines.