Commensal Neisseria are shared between sexual partners: implications for gonococcal and meningococcal antimicrobial resistance

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Abstract

Antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic Neisseria parallels reduced antimicrobial susceptibility in commensal Neisseria in certain populations, like men who have sex with men (MSM). Although this reduced susceptibility can be a consequence of frequent antimicrobial exposure at the individual level, we hypothesized that commensal Neisseria are transmitted between sexual partners. We used data from a 2014 microbiome study in which saliva and tongue swabs were taken from 21 couples (42 individuals). Samples were analyzed using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We compared intimate partners with unrelated individuals and found that the oral Neisseria communities of intimate partners were more similar than those of unrelated individuals (average Morisita-Horn dissimilarity index for saliva samples: 0.54 versus 0.71, respectively (p = 0.005); and for tongue swabs: 0.42 versus 0.63, respectively (p = 0.006)). This similarity presumably results from transmission of oral Neisseria through intimate kissing. This finding suggests that intensive gonorrhea screening in MSM may, via increased antimicrobial exposure, promote, rather than prevent, the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria. Non-antibiotic strategies such as vaccines and oral antiseptics could prove more sustainable options to reduce gonococcal prevalence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number228
JournalPathogens
Volume9
Issue number3
Number of pages7
ISSN2076-0817
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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