Molecular genetic methods for diagnosis and characterisation of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae: impact on epidemiological surveillance and interventions

APMIS. Nov-Dec 2004;112(11-12):771-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0463.2004.apm11211-1205.x.


One of the mainstays in the prevention of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections is the availability of laboratory diagnostics with high sensitivity and specificity. Assays for diagnosis of C. trachomatis include cell culture and nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). The major target sequences for C. trachomatis diagnosis by NAATs are located at the cryptic plasmid and the major target used for characterisation is the omp1 gene. The gold standard for diagnosis of N. gonorrhoeae is culture. However, numerous NAATs for identification of N. gonorrhoeae and a number of molecular genetic methods for characterisation of N. gonorrhoeae have been developed. Probably no routine laboratory can attain as high sensitivity by culturing C. trachomatis or N. gonorrhoeae as by using NAATs. For that reason NAATs can be recommended for diagnosing C. trachomatis, but not as the only diagnostic assay for N. gonorrhoeae, due to lack of antibiotic susceptibility testing and specificity problems, most pronounced for pharyngeal and rectal samples. Genotyping of C. trachomatis or N. gonorrhoeae provides additional information for contact tracing. It is recommended for N. gonorrhoeae, at least in low prevalence geographic areas, but cannot today be recommended for C. trachomatis. This is due to the low genetic variability and hence the limited benefits for partner notification. However, genotyping of C. trachomatis may play an important role under special circumstances.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis*
  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology
  • Chlamydia Infections / microbiology*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / genetics*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Gonorrhea / diagnosis*
  • Gonorrhea / epidemiology
  • Gonorrhea / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Biology / methods*
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / genetics*
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / isolation & purification*
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques / methods
  • Phenotype
  • Population Surveillance