Background: To guide interpretation of gonorrhea tests of cure using nucleic acid amplification testing, this study examined the persistence of Neisseria gonorrhoeae DNA following treatment for pharyngeal and rectal gonorrhea.
Methods: Men who had sex with men diagnosed with pharyngeal or rectal gonorrhea underwent swabbing from the pharynx or rectum 7 and 14 days following treatment. Repeat testing for N. gonorrhoeae was undertaken using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays targeting the opa gene and porA pseudogene.
Results: One hundred pharyngeal and 100 rectal gonorrhea infections in 190 men were included. For pharyngeal gonorrhea, positivity of N. gonorrhoeae DNA on both PCR assays was present at days 7 or 14 in 13% (95% confidence interval [CI], 6.4%-19.6%) and 8% (95% CI, 2.7%-13.3%), respectively. For rectal gonorrhea, DNA positivity was present in 6% (95% CI, 1.4%-10.7%) and 8% (95% CI, 2.7%-13.3%), respectively. Among 200 baseline pharyngeal and rectal isolates, there were 10 with ceftriaxone minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) ≥0.06 mg/L and azithromycin MIC ≥0.5 mg/L, of which 3 (30%) had DNA detected at day 14; among the 190 isolates with lower ceftriaxone and azithromycin MICs, only 13 (7%) had persistent DNA (odds ratio, 5.8 [95% CI, 1.3-25.4]; P = .019). One man initially infected with N. gonorrhoeae multiantigen sequence type 2400 had type 4244 infection at day 14, indicating reinfection.
Conclusions: Pharyngeal and rectal gonorrhea DNA persisted in 8% of men 14 days after treatment. Persistence was associated with elevated ceftriaxone and azithromycin MICs. Persistence can also reflect reinfection.
Keywords: gonorrhea; minimum inhibitory concentration of antibiotics; persistent DNA on NAAT testing; reinfection; test of cure.
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