Sexually Transmitted Neisseria gonorrhoeae Infections-Update on Drug Treatment and Vaccine Development

Medicines (Basel). 2021 Feb 5;8(2):11. doi: 10.3390/medicines8020011.


Background: Sexually transmitted gonorrhea, caused by the Gram-negative diplococcus Neisseria gonorrhoeae, continues to be a serious global health challenge despite efforts to eradicate it. Multidrug resistance among clinical N. gonorrhoeae isolates has limited treatment options, and attempts to develop vaccines have not been successful. Methods: A search of published literature was conducted, and information extracted to provide an update on the status of therapeutics and vaccine development for gonorrheal infection. Results: Recommended pharmacological treatment for gonorrhea has changed multiple times due to increasing acquisition of resistance to existing antibiotics by N. gonorrhoeae. Only broad-spectrum cephalosporin-based combination therapies are currently recommended for treatment of uncomplicated urogenital and anorectal gonococcal infections. With the reported emergence of ceftriaxone resistance, successful strategies addressing the global burden of gonorrhea must include vaccination. Century-old efforts at developing an effective vaccine against gonorrhea, leading to only four clinical trials, have not yielded any successful vaccine. Conclusions: While it is important to continue to explore new drugs for the treatment of gonorrhea, the historical trend of resistance acquisition suggests that any long-term strategy should include vaccine development. Advanced technologies in proteomics and in silico approaches to vaccine target identification may provide templates for future success.

Keywords: Neisseria gonorrhoeae; azithromycin; ceftriaxone; gonorrhea; in silico approaches to vaccine antigen identification; multidrug resistance; proteomics-driven vaccine antigen discovery; vaccine development.

Publication types

  • Review