Objectives: A sharp increase in the incidence of gonorrhea has been observed in Tel Aviv, Israel, since 1999. Almost one half of interviewed patients admitted contracting the infection from a sex worker. In two thirds of the cases, oral sex (fellatio) was the most probable route of acquiring the disease. In the current study, we assessed the prevalence of pharyngeal gonorrhea among sex workers in Tel Aviv and evaluated the efficacy of a single 2-g dose of azithromycin in eradicating the infection.
Methods: Throat specimens were obtained for gonococcal culture from 301 female sex workers practicing in brothels. A questionnaire covering demographic and sexual behavior information was administered to all participants, and a single 2-g dose was administered orally under supervision. Women with positive cultures were reexamined a week later for eradication of Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
Results: N gonorrhoeae was isolated from 27 women (9%). The median age of women with pharyngeal gonorrhea was 23 years (range, 18-32 years); 85% were born in former Soviet Union (mostly Russia, Ukraine, Moldavia). Regular condom use in vaginal sex was reported by 88% of the participants, whereas only 60% reported always using condoms in oral sex. All isolates were susceptible to azithromycin (MIC < or = 0.5 microg/ml). Gonococci were eradicated in 20/21 individuals (95%).
Conclusion: A high carriage rate of gonococci in the throat and a low rate of condom use in oral sex were documented among sex workers in Tel Aviv. A single 2 g dose of azithromycin was very effective in eradicating gonococci from the throat.