OBJECTIVES: Antimicrobial resistance is generally linked to antimicrobial selection pressure. Antimicrobial-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections frequently emerge in core groups. We hypothesised that these groups are more often exposed to antimicrobials as a consequence of the repeated treatment of both symptomatic and asymptomatic sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and that frequent STI screening in asymptomatic patients may contribute indirectly to antimicrobial exposure. In this study, we explored the ecological association between screening intensity in men who have sex with men and antimicrobial susceptibility in N. gonorrhoeae in the USA.
METHODS: Data on STI screening intensity came from the American Men's Internet Survey between October 2014 and March 2015. Data on gonococcal susceptibility to azithromycin, ceftriaxone and cefixime were used from the Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project in 2015. Spearman's correlation was used to determine the association between these two variables.
RESULTS: A positive ecological association was found between STI screening intensity and geometric mean gonococcal minimum inhibitory concentration for ceftriaxone (rho=0.42, p=0.031) and cefixime (rho=0.42, p=0.029), but not for azithromycin (rho=0.31, p=0.11). The above results must be interpreted with caution as many limitations apply.
CONCLUSIONS: Variation in STI screening intensity may contribute to differences in gonococcal resistance between States in the USA.