Aim: To review the features of gonococcal infection in men in the 1990s.
Methods: A retrospective study of all men with gonorrhoea presenting to an inner city department of genitourinary medicine in the years 1990 to 1992.
Results: 1749 cases of gonorrhoea were seen in 1382 men. A high incidence of gonorrhoea was found in attenders of African or Caribbean extraction. In 228 men with a known date of infection, the incubation period, a mean of 8.3 days, was longer than previously described. The mean infectious period was 12.0 days. By 14 days 86.2% of men had developed symptoms. Of 1615 men with urethral infection 81.9% complained of discharge, while dysuria occurred in 52.8%. Discharge with dysuria were present in only 48.1% of patients. In 10.2% episodes of urethral infection the patients had no symptoms referable to their gonorrhoea. Urethral gonorrhoea was diagnosed by microscopy in 94.4% of symptomatic men and in only 81.1% of asymptomatic men. Microscopy of rectal samples were positive in 46.4% of cases. In this population, a dose of 2 g of ampicillin with 1 g of probenecid gave a high cure rate of gonorrhoea as long as infection was not due to penicillinase-producing organisms.
Conclusions: These data suggest that the incubation and infectious period of urethral gonorrhoea has increased compared with previous studies and that symptoms have altered. Only 48.1% of men described the classical symptoms of discharge with dysuria. Microscopy of urethral smears remains useful in symptomatic men but is less sensitive in those without symptoms.