Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019 Nov 21;5(1):79. doi: 10.1038/s41572-019-0128-6.


The bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes the sexually transmitted infection (STI) gonorrhoea, which has an estimated global annual incidence of 86.9 million adults. Gonorrhoea can present as urethritis in men, cervicitis or urethritis in women, and in extragenital sites (pharynx, rectum, conjunctiva and, rarely, systemically) in both sexes. Confirmation of diagnosis requires microscopy of Gram-stained samples, bacterial culture or nucleic acid amplification tests. As no gonococcal vaccine is available, prevention relies on promoting safe sexual behaviours and reducing STI-associated stigma, which hinders timely diagnosis and treatment thereby increasing transmission. Single-dose systemic therapy (usually injectable ceftriaxone plus oral azithromycin) is the recommended first-line treatment. However, a major public health concern globally is that N. gonorrhoeae is evolving high levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which threatens the effectiveness of the available gonorrhoea treatments. Improved global surveillance of the emergence, evolution, fitness, and geographical and temporal spread of AMR in N. gonorrhoeae, and improved understanding of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics for current and future antimicrobials in the treatment of urogenital and extragenital gonorrhoea, are essential to inform treatment guidelines. Key priorities for gonorrhoea control include strengthening prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of patients and their partners; decreasing stigma; expanding surveillance of AMR and treatment failures; and promoting responsible antimicrobial use and stewardship. To achieve these goals, the development of rapid and affordable point-of-care diagnostic tests that can simultaneously detect AMR, novel therapeutic antimicrobials and gonococcal vaccine(s) in particular is crucial.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Azithromycin / therapeutic use
  • Ceftriaxone / therapeutic use
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Gonorrhea / complications*
  • Gonorrhea / epidemiology
  • Gonorrhea / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / drug effects
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / pathogenicity
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Azithromycin