Objective: To describe the establishment and outcomes of a regional programme of continuing long term surveillance of antibiotic susceptibility of Neisseria gonorrhoeae over the period 1992-4.
Methods: Laboratories in 17 countries in the WHO Western Pacific Region participated in a continuing programme of surveillance of the susceptibility of gonococci to an agreed group of antibiotics over 3 years. Established techniques were used and these included quality control and proficiency testing systems.
Results: About 20,000 gonococci were examined over a 3 year period. Resistance to the penicillins through beta lactamase production or chromosomal mechanisms was widespread, with further changes evident over the 3 years. Spectinomycin resistance was infrequently encountered but high level tetracycline resistance was present in most participating centres, with some having high proportions of tetracycline resistant organisms. Quinolone resistance increased and became widespread throughout the region in the 3 years, ultimately involving all but one centre. Both the number and minimum inhibitory concentrations of quinolone resistant isolates increased markedly.
Conclusions: Patterns of gonococcal resistance to antibiotics continue to evolve, at times rapidly, and have the potential for wide and rapid dissemination. Regional surveillance programmes can be developed by using and expanding existing resources. Data thus derived were applied to the development of appropriate treatment regimens in the region, and emphasised further the need for a global expansion of the programme of integrated surveillance of gonococcal resistance.