Emergence and Spread of Neisseria gonorrhoeae Strains with High-Level Resistance to Azithromycin in Taiwan from 2001 to 2018

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2019 Aug 23;63(9):e00773-19. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00773-19. Print 2019 Sep.


A total of 598 Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates obtained from patients in Taiwan from 2001 to 2018 were evaluated. The MICs of ceftriaxone (CRO) and azithromycin (AZM) against the isolates were determined by the agar dilution method. N. gonorrhoeae isolates with AZM MICs of ≥1 μg/ml were identified and characterized by the presence of AZM resistance determinants. For high-level AZM-resistant (AZM-HLR) isolates (MIC ≥ 256 μg/ml), genotyping was performed using multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and N. gonorrhoeae multiantigen sequence typing (NG-MAST). Among the N. gonorrhoeae isolates studied, 8.7% (52/598) exhibited AZM MICs of ≥1 μg/ml. Thirteen of the 52 isolates contained A2059G (23S rRNA NG-STAR type 1) or C2611T (23S rRNA NG-STAR type 2) mutations. The prevalence of the A2059G mutation was higher in AZM-HLR isolates (P < 0.001). The -35A deletion in the promoter region of the mtrR gene did not differ between AZM-HLR isolates (100%, 10/10) and the isolates with AZM MICs of 1 μg/ml to 64 μg/ml (95.2%, 40/42) (P = 1.000). The presence of mutations in the mtrR coding region was significantly different between these two groups at 90% (9/10) and 26.2% (11/42), respectively (P < 0.001). The AZM-HLR isolates, all carrying four mutated A2059G alleles, a -35A deletion, and G45D, were classified as MLST 12039/10899 and NG-MAST 1866/16497. In conclusion, Taiwan is among the countries reporting gonococci with high-level resistance to AZM so that a single dose of 1 g ceftriaxone intramuscularly as the first choice for management of N. gonorrhoeae infection should be evaluated.

Keywords: Neisseria gonorrhoeae; Taiwan; azithromycin resistance; ceftriaxone.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Azithromycin / pharmacology*
  • Ceftriaxone / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Multilocus Sequence Typing
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / drug effects*
  • Taiwan


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Azithromycin