Epidemiological and Clinical Observations of Gonococcal Infections in Women and Prevention Strategies
April 1, 2021
Ana Paula R Costa-Lourenço, Xiaohong Su , Wenjing Le , Zhaoyan Yang , Gregory J Patts, Paola Massari, Caroline A Genco
Neisseria gonorrhoeae is rapidly developing antimicrobial resistance. There is an urgent need for an effective gonococcal vaccine. In this study we examined epidemiological and clinical factors associated with gonorrhea in a cohort of women exposed to men with gonococcal urethritis attending the National Center for STD Control clinic in Nanjing, China, to understand the natural history and the risk factors for gonorrhea in this vulnerable population. This analysis will help identify the best target populations for vaccination, which is essential information for the development of vaccine strategies. We observed that 75% of the women in our cohort yielded a N. gonorrhoeae positive culture (infected women) and reported multiple sexual exposures to their infected partner. Infected women were younger than exposed but uninfected women. Contrary to the general belief that gonorrhea is asymptomatic in most women, 68% of the infected women acknowledged symptoms during their STD clinic visit, and overt inflammatory responses were detected upon medical examination in 88% of subjects. Other sexually transmitted infections were detected in 85% of subjects. This study confirmed that N. gonorrhoeae infections are underdiagnosed in women and, consequentially, untreated. Thus, our analysis reinforces the need to establish strategies for gonococcal prevention through the determination of the target population for a gonococcal vaccine.