Gonorrhoea surveillance study maps antibiotic resistance across Europe

May 15, 2018, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Credit: CDC

The first European-wide genomic survey of gonorrhoea has mapped antibiotic resistance in this sexually transmitted disease throughout the continent. Researchers at The Centre for Genomic Pathogen Surveillance (CGPS), the Wellcome Sanger Institute, European Centre for Disease Control, and their collaborators also showed that using DNA sequencing data they could accurately determine antibiotic resistance and identify incorrect laboratory test results. This genomic approach could one day help doctors prescribe the most effective antibiotics for each region.

Reported in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the study has also established an open genomic database of . The new resource will support real-time ongoing of gonorrhoea worldwide, which public health officials could use to monitor which of gonorrhoea are present globally and where new antibiotic resistance is emerging.

Gonorrhoea is the second most prevalent bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) globally and is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The WHO estimates that gonorrhoea infects 88 million people globally each year. Amongst other complications, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if left untreated, and in some cases leads to life-threatening complications such as meningitis. Transmitted during unprotected sex, many strains of gonorrhoea are now difficult to treat due to the rise in antibiotic resistance.

To understand the extent of multidrug resistant strains and determine the best method for surveillance, the researchers studied 1054 samples of N. gonorrhoeae collected from 20 countries across Europe in 2013. Each sample was tested locally for type and antibiotic sensitivity, and was sent to a central laboratory for DNA extraction. The DNA was then sequenced and the data analysed at the Centre for Genomic Pathogen Surveillance and made accessible via their online platform, creating the first European-wide database of gonorrhoea.

The scientists discovered that using genomic data allowed them to identify clinically important, antibiotic resistant strains much more accurately than existing typing techniques, and to identify incorrect laboratory antibiotic resistance results.

Prof David Aanensen, a corresponding author on the paper and Director of The Centre for Genomic Pathogen Surveillance, Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: "Ours is the most comprehensive, structured genomic study of gonorrhoea to date, and data are available to healthcare workers worldwide to compare and view emerging strains of gonorrhoea. This combination of a new method with an accessible database and interpretation tools provides a genomic baseline of gonorrhoea strains and antibiotic resistance across Europe, which will strengthen real-time, surveillance of gonorrhoea.

Dr. Simon Harris, first author on the paper from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: "Our study shows that current methods for typing strains of gonorrhoea are not very effective for surveillance. We show that whole genome sequencing gives a true picture of where sensitive and resistant strains are circulating, which will allow doctors to quickly spot the emergence of new, antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea strains. A follow up study starting this year will show how the picture changes with time."

The web application is openly available online, and healthcare officials from around the world can use it and add their own genomic data. This will enable them to monitor the strains and antibiotic emerging in each geographic area. Ongoing surveillance would allow clinics to offer the most appropriate and help to delay the onset of further .

Dr. Gianfranco Spiteri, an author on the paper from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control which co-ordinates the European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (Euro-GASP), said: "Drug-resistant bacteria are becoming a huge public health threat. To control them, we badly need new tools to identify and track new infections and antibiotic resistant strains. This new approach will allow European-wide genomic surveillance of gonorrhoea which directly influences infection control on a national level and helps to prevent gonorrhoea. This approach can also be expanded to other infections."

Explore further: First cases of extensively drug-resistant gonorrhea threaten future treatment

More information: The Lancet Infectious Diseases (2018). DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(18)30225-1

Related Stories

First cases of extensively drug-resistant gonorrhea threaten future treatment

May 14, 2018
Within a matter of weeks, three cases of gonorrhea that are resistant to the recommended first-line antibiotic treatment have been detected in Europe and Australia. At a time with limited alternatives to the current dual ...

Gonorrhoea strains across Europe becoming more susceptible to main treatment options

September 13, 2017
According to test results from the annual European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (Euro-GASP), resistance levels to the main antimicrobials used for treatment of gonorrhoea infection have seen an encouraging ...

Encouraging decrease in certain antibiotic resistance levels of gonococci across Europe

September 2, 2016
In 2014, the susceptibility of gonococci to two of the recommended antibiotics for gonorrhoea treatment has shown signs of improvement, according to results from the European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme ...

New drugs needed against gonorrhoea: UN

July 7, 2017
New drugs are urgently needed to treat gonorrhoea, a sexually-transmitted disease threatening to veer out of control as it develops resistance to existing antibiotics, the UN's health agency said Friday.

Discovery uncovers clue to disarm gonorrhea superbug

March 30, 2018
Every year, more than 100 million people worldwide develop the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea, with health consequences such as infertility, transmission of the disease to newborn babies, and increased risk of HIV ...

Push to control gonorrhoea as resistance threat looms

December 15, 2017
Australia's rising number of gonorrhoea cases has been described as a potential 'perfect storm', with the emergence of extensively drug resistant strains overseas.

Recommended for you

Lung-on-a-chip simulates pulmonary fibrosis

May 25, 2018
Developing new medicines to treat pulmonary fibrosis, one of the most common and serious forms of lung disease, is not easy.

Reconstructing Zika's spread

May 24, 2018
The urgent threat from Zika virus, which dominated news headlines in the spring and summer of 2016, has passed for now. But research into how Zika and other mosquito-borne infections spread and cause epidemics is still very ...

Tick bite protection: New CDC study adds to the promise of permethrin-treated clothing

May 24, 2018
The case for permethrin-treated clothing to prevent tick bites keeps getting stronger.

Molecular network boosts drug resistance and virulence in hospital-acquired bacterium

May 24, 2018
In response to antibiotics, a gene regulation network found in the bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii acts to boost both virulence and antibiotic resistance. Edward Geisinger of Tufts University School of Medicine and colleagues ...

Past use of disinfectants and PPE for Ebola could inform future outbreaks

May 24, 2018
Data from the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak at two Sierra Leone facilities reveal daily usage rates for disinfectant and personal protective equipment, informing future outbreaks, according to a study published May 24, 2018 in ...

Early lactate measurements appear to improve results for septic patients

May 24, 2018
On October 1, 2015, the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a bundle of recommendations defining optimal treatment of patients suffering from sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.