Multicenter trial of single-dose azithromycin vs. ceftriaxone in the treatment of uncomplicated gonorrhea. Azithromycin Gonorrhea Study Group

Sex Transm Dis. 1994 Mar-Apr;21(2):107-11. doi: 10.1097/00007435-199403000-00010.


Background and objectives: Azithromycin is a new, long-acting azalide antibiotic that is active against Neisseria gonorrhoeae. A single oral dose of 1.0 g is effective against uncomplicated genital infection with Chlamydia trachomatis.

Goal of this study: To compare the efficacy and tolerance of single-dose treatment of uncomplicated gonorrhea with azithromycin, 2.0 g orally, and ceftriaxone, 250 mg intramuscularly.

Study design: Seven hundred twenty-four men and women with presumptive, uncomplicated gonorrhea were treated with azithromycin 2.0 g orally or ceftriaxone 250 mg intramuscularly in a 2:1 ratio in a multicenter, open, randomized control trial in 10 public sexually transmitted disease clinics in the United States. Patients were followed up in 5 to 9 days and, for a subset of patients, 12 to 18 days after treatment. The main outcome measures were the isolation of N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis and patient-reported side effects.

Results: Among infected patients who returned for follow-up, N. gonorrhoeae was eradicated from all anatomic sites in 370 of 374 (98.9%; 95% confidence interval [95%CI] 97.9%-100%) treated with azithromycin and 171 of 175 (97.7%; 95%CI 95.5%-99.9%) given ceftriaxone. Treatment with either drug was effective in all 73 patients infected with beta-lactamase-producing N. gonorrhoeae. Chlamydial infection was eradicated in all 17 patients given azithromycin who returned and were recultured at follow-up and in two of seven patients given ceftriaxone (P < 0.001). Gastrointestinal side effects occurred in 35.3% (95%CI 30.7%-39.8%) of patients given azithromycin; of those with symptoms, these were moderate in 10.1% and severe in 2.9%.

Conclusions: Azithromycin 2.0 g and ceftriaxone 250 mg are equally effective in the treatment of uncomplicated gonorrhea. Azithromycin was associated with a relatively high frequency of gastrointestinal side effects and is expensive, but it has the advantages of oral administration and efficacy against concomitant chlamydial infection.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Azithromycin / therapeutic use*
  • Ceftriaxone / therapeutic use*
  • Cephalosporins / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Gonorrhea / drug therapy*
  • Gonorrhea / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cephalosporins
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Azithromycin