INTRODUCTION: Neisseria gonorrhoeae has developed resistance to all classes of antimicrobials used against it. Current strategies to prevent the emergence of pan-resistance include increased gonorrhea screening in high-prevalence populations such as men who have sex with men taking HIV preexposure prophylaxis. By increasing antimicrobial exposure, others have argued that intensive screening may inadvertently promote the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
AIM/METHODOLOGY: To contribute to this discussion, we conducted a historical review of the effect of a mass gonorrhea treatment campaign in Greenland from 1965 to 1968 on the incidence of gonorrhea and antimicrobial resistance. We conducted a literature review using PubMed and Google Scholar to find relevant studies. Data on the incidence of gonorrhea, antimicrobial susceptibility, and antimicrobials dispensed were extracted and analyzed.
RESULTS: Eight articles were found with relevant information. The cornerstone of the campaign involved the repeated treatment for all persons with a diagnosis of gonorrhea in the past 6 months as well as all remaining unmarried persons between 15 and 30 years of age. There was a small and temporary decline in the incidence of gonorrhea during the campaign. The campaign was, however, associated with an increase in the proportion of gonococci that were not susceptible to penicillin. Gonococcal incidence continued to climb after the campaign ended but did decline dramatically after reductions in risk behavior after the global AIDS epidemic.
DISCUSSIONS: The mass gonorrhea treatment campaign in Greenland was associated with only a temporary decline in the incidence of gonorrhea. It was, however, followed by an increase in penicillin nonsusceptibility. Intense gonorrhea screening and treatment strategies should be aware of the risk of inducing antimicrobial resistance.