Overall low extended-spectrum cephalosporin resistance but high azithromycin resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae in 24 European countries, 2015

Michelle J Cole, Gianfranco Spiteri, Susanne Jacobsson, Neil Woodford, Francesco Tripodo, Andrew J Amato-Gauci, Magnus Unemo, Euro-GASP Network

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    BACKGROUND: Surveillance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae antimicrobial susceptibility in Europe is performed through the European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (Euro-GASP), which additionally provides data to inform the European gonorrhoea treatment guideline; currently recommending ceftriaxone 500 mg plus azithromycin 2 g as first-line therapy. We present antimicrobial susceptibility data from 24 European countries in 2015, linked to epidemiological data of patients, and compare the results to Euro-GASP data from previous years.

    METHODS: Antimicrobial susceptibility testing by MIC gradient strips or agar dilution methodology was performed on 2134 N. gonorrhoeae isolates and interpreted using EUCAST breakpoints. Patient variables associated with resistance were established using logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (ORs).

    RESULTS: In 2015, 1.7% of isolates were cefixime resistant compared to 2.0% in 2014. Ceftriaxone resistance was detected in only one (0.05%) isolate in 2015, compared with five (0.2%) in 2014. Azithromycin resistance was detected in 7.1% of isolates in 2015 (7.9% in 2014), and five (0.2%) isolates displayed high-level azithromycin resistance (MIC ≥ 256 mg/L) compared with one (0.05%) in 2014. Ciprofloxacin resistance remained high (49.4%, vs. 50.7% in 2014). Cefixime resistance significantly increased among heterosexual males (4.1% vs. 1.7% in 2014), which was mainly attributable to data from two countries with high cefixime resistance (~11%), however rates among men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) and females continued to decline to 0.5% and 1%, respectively. Azithromycin resistance in MSM and heterosexual males was higher (both 8.1%) than in females (4.9% vs. 2.2% in 2014). The association between azithromycin resistance and previous gonorrhoea infection, observed in 2014, continued in 2015 (OR 2.1, CI 1.2-3.5, p < 0.01).

    CONCLUSIONS: The 2015 Euro-GASP sentinel system revealed high, but stable azithromycin resistance and low overall resistance to ceftriaxone and cefixime. The low cephalosporin resistance may be attributable to the effectiveness of the currently recommended first-line dual antimicrobial therapy; however the high azithromycin resistance threatens the effectiveness of this therapeutic regimen. Whether the global use of azithromycin in mono- or dual antimicrobial therapy of gonorrhoea is contributing to the global increases in azithromycin resistance remains to be elucidated. The increasing cefixime resistance in heterosexual males also needs close monitoring.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number617
    JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
    Number of pages9
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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