Expanding U.S. Laboratory Capacity for Neisseria gonorrhoeae Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing and Whole-Genome Sequencing through the CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network

J Clin Microbiol. 2020 Mar 25;58(4):e01461-19. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01461-19. Print 2020 Mar 25.


U.S. gonorrhea rates are rising, and antibiotic-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae (AR-Ng) is an urgent public health threat. Since implementation of nucleic acid amplification tests for N. gonorrhoeae identification, the capacity for culturing N. gonorrhoeae in the United States has declined, along with the ability to perform culture-based antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST). Yet AST is critical for detecting and monitoring AR-Ng. In 2016, the CDC established the Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network (AR Lab Network) to shore up the national capacity for detecting several resistance threats including N. gonorrhoeae AR-Ng testing, a subactivity of the CDC's AR Lab Network, is performed in a tiered network of approximately 35 local laboratories, four regional laboratories (state public health laboratories in Maryland, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington), and the CDC's national reference laboratory. Local laboratories receive specimens from approximately 60 clinics associated with the Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project (GISP), enhanced GISP (eGISP), and the program Strengthening the U.S. Response to Resistant Gonorrhea (SURRG). They isolate and ship up to 20,000 isolates to regional laboratories for culture-based agar dilution AST with seven antibiotics and for whole-genome sequencing of up to 5,000 isolates. The CDC further examines concerning isolates and monitors genetic AR markers. During 2017 and 2018, the network tested 8,214 and 8,628 N. gonorrhoeae isolates, respectively, and the CDC received 531 and 646 concerning isolates and 605 and 3,159 sequences, respectively. In summary, the AR Lab Network supported the laboratory capacity for N. gonorrhoeae AST and associated genetic marker detection, expanding preexisting notification and analysis systems for resistance detection. Continued, robust AST and genomic capacity can help inform national public health monitoring and intervention.

Keywords: Neisseria gonorrhoeae; antibiotic resistance; antimicrobial resistance; antimicrobial susceptibility testing; gonorrhea; whole-genome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Gonorrhea* / diagnosis
  • Gonorrhea* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Laboratories
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae* / genetics
  • Texas
  • United States
  • Washington


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents