Molecular tests for the detection of antimicrobial resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae: when, where, and how to use?

Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2016 Feb;29(1):45-51. doi: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000230.


Purpose of review: Molecular methods for the diagnosis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae are replacing bacterial culture in many settings. This review focuses on recent progress in the development of molecular tests to detect resistant N. gonorrhoeae both to enhance surveillance and to guide decisions about individual patient management.

Recent findings: Assays to enhance surveillance have been developed to detect determinants of resistance for all antibiotics used as first-line gonorrhoea treatment, or to detect specific 'superbug' strains, but few have been applied in clinical practice. The most advanced strategy relevant to individual case management is to identify ciprofloxacin-sensitive strains so that unnecessary use of ceftriaxone can be avoided. Cross-reactivity with pharyngeal commensal Neisseria species reduces specificity and is a challenge for many assays.

Summary: Progress with laboratory-based molecular tests to detect gonococcal resistance is being made but substantial challenges remain. No laboratory-based assay has been subjected to a field evaluation and no assay so far can be used as a point-of-care test. Given the threat of antimicrobial resistance, now is the time to exploit the molecular technologies used for diagnosis and to invest in the development of molecular gonococcal resistance tests that can be implemented for public health good.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques / trends
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Gonorrhea / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / instrumentation*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / trends
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / genetics*
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / isolation & purification
  • Point-of-Care Systems / trends


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents