The Australian Gonococcal Surveillance Programme (AGSP), established in 1981, has continuously monitored antimicrobial resistance in clinical isolates of Neisseria gonorrhoeae for more than 40 years. In 2020, a total of 7,222 clinical isolates of gonococci from patients in the public and private sectors, in all jurisdictions, were tested for in vitro antimicrobial susceptibility by standardised methods. Current treatment recommendations for gonorrhoea, for the majority of Australia, continues to be dual therapy with ceftriaxone and azithromycin. In 2020, decreased susceptibility (DS) to ceftriaxone (minimum inhibitory concentration [MIC] value ≥ 0.06 mg/L) was found nationally in 0.9% of isolates. There was one isolate, reported from Victoria in 2020, that was resistant to ceftriaxone (MIC value ≥ 0.25 mg/L). Resistance to azithromycin (MIC value ≥ 1.0 mg/L) was found nationally in 3.9% of N. gonorrhoeae isolates, continuing a downward trend observed and reported since 2017. Isolates with high-level resistance to azithromycin (MIC value ≥ 256 mg/L) are identified sporadically in Australia; in 2020, there was one such isolate reported in Queensland. In 2020, penicillin resistance was found in 27% of gonococcal isolates nationally, and ciprofloxacin resistance in 36%; however, there is considerable variation by jurisdiction. In some remote settings, penicillin resistance remains low, and this drug continues to be recommended as part of an empiric therapy strategy. In 2020, in remote Northern Territory, no penicillin resistance was reported, and in remote Western Australia 5/116 of gonococcal isolates (4.3%) were penicillin resistant. There was one ciprofloxacin-resistant isolate reported from remote Northern Territory, and ciprofloxacin resistance rates remain comparatively low in remote Western Australia (4/116; 3.4%).
Keywords: Neisseria gonorrhoeae; antimicrobial resistance; disease surveillance; gonococcal infection.
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