Objectives: To conduct a sentinel surveillance study for antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae in Western Europe in 2004 as part of the European Surveillance of Sexually Transmitted Infections (ESSTI) Programme.
Methods: Gonococcal isolates were collected from centres in 12 countries and transferred to two reference centres for testing. The same methodology of agar dilution was used to determine susceptibility to a range of antimicrobials used for the treatment of gonorrhoea including azithromycin, ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, penicillin and tetracycline. Quality control between the two laboratories was assessed during the testing.
Results: A total of 1055 gonococcal isolates were collected, of which 965 (91.5%) were retrievable for susceptibility testing. Resistance was found to be high to ciprofloxacin (30.9%), but also present to penicillin (21.3%) and tetracycline (59.8%). Azithromycin resistance was above 5%, the first time this has been documented in Europe. Three isolates had a low level of resistance to ceftriaxone. With regard to quality control between the two reference laboratories, 92% of MIC results were within two dilutions.
Conclusions: These are the first sentinel surveillance data for Western Europe for N. gonorrhoeae and they have implications for choice of antimicrobial for treatment of gonorrhoea on a European and a local level. This is the start of the formation of a European gonococcal antimicrobial surveillance programme (EURO-GASP).