Date: 30 Sep 2011

Phenotypic and genotypic properties of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates in Norway in 2009: antimicrobial resistance warrants an immediate change in national management guidelines

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Abstract

Despite rapidly diminishing treatment options for Neisseria gonorrhoeae and high levels of ciprofloxacin resistance worldwide, Norwegian guidelines still recommend ciprofloxacin as empirical treatment for gonorrhea. The present study aimed to characterize phenotypical and genotypical properties of N. gonorrhoeae isolates in Norway in 2009. All viable N. gonorrhoeae isolates (n = 114) from six university hospitals in Norway (2009) were collected, representing 42% of all notified gonorrhea cases. Epidemiological data were collected from the Norwegian Surveillance System for Communicable Diseases and linked to phenotypical and genotypical characteristics for each N. gonorrhoeae isolate. Resistance levels to the antimicrobials examined were: ciprofloxacin 78%, azithromycin 11%, cefixime 3.5%, ceftriaxone 1.8%, and spectinomycin 0%. The minimum inhibitory concentrations of gentamicin varied from 1.5 to 8 mg/L. Forty-one (36%) of the isolates were β-lactamase-producing, 17 displayed penA mosaic alleles, and 72 different N. gonorrhoeae multiantigen sequence types (ST; 37 novel) were identified. The most common ST was ST1407 (n = 11), containing penA mosaic allele. Four of these isolates displayed intermediate susceptibility/resistance to cefixime. The N. gonorrhoeae strains circulating in Norway were highly diverse. The level of ciprofloxacin resistance was high and the Norwegian management guidelines should promptly exclude ciprofloxacin as an empirical treatment option for gonorrhea.

The present study was performed at the National Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria, Örebro University Hospital, Örebro, Sweden and at the Department of Microbiology, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway. The project was funded by Örebro University Hospital (Magnus Unemo) and University of Tromsø (Vegard Skogen).