Evaluating spatially adaptive guidelines for the treatment of gonorrhea to reduce the incidence of gonococcal infection and increase the effective lifespan of antibiotics

PLoS Comput Biol. 2022 Feb 9;18(2):e1009842. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009842. eCollection 2022 Feb.


In the absence of point-of-care gonorrhea diagnostics that report antibiotic susceptibility, gonorrhea treatment is empiric and determined by standardized guidelines. These guidelines are informed by estimates of resistance prevalence from national surveillance systems. We examined whether guidelines informed by local, rather than national, surveillance data could reduce the incidence of gonorrhea and increase the effective lifespan of antibiotics used in treatment guidelines. We used a transmission dynamic model of gonorrhea among men who have sex with men (MSM) in 16 U.S. metropolitan areas to determine whether spatially adaptive treatment guidelines based on local estimates of resistance prevalence can extend the effective lifespan of hypothetical antibiotics. The rate of gonorrhea cases in these metropolitan areas was 5,548 cases per 100,000 MSM in 2017. Under the current strategy of updating the treatment guideline when the prevalence of resistance exceeds 5%, we showed that spatially adaptive guidelines could reduce the annual rate of gonorrhea cases by 200 cases (95% uncertainty interval: 169, 232) per 100,000 MSM population while extending the use of a first-line antibiotic by 0.75 (0.55, 0.95) years. One potential strategy to reduce the incidence of gonorrhea while extending the effective lifespan of antibiotics is to inform treatment guidelines based on local, rather than national, resistance prevalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Gonorrhea* / drug therapy
  • Gonorrhea* / epidemiology
  • Gonorrhea* / prevention & control
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longevity
  • Male
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents