The State of Neisseria Gonorrhoeae Infection: Overcoming Last Resort Antibiotics

by Karen Buckheit

June 7, 2018

Although drug resistant Neisseria gonnorrhoeae may not yet have achieved "Superbug" status, it clearly has the hallmarks of those multi-drug resistant organisms. Neisseria gonnorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes gonorrhoea, is a sexually transmitted bacterium with 78 million cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012.  It is the second most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the US and has resulted in considerable worldwide morbidity and economic costs. Neisseria gonnorrhoeae infects the moist areas of the reproductive tract in both men and women. While infection may initially be asymptomatic, resulting in a risk of transmission without known infection, eventually, symptoms appear which in women, include a yellowish or bloody discharge accompanied by pain during urination and intercourse. Left untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may develop. Similar symptoms occur in men including white, yellow or green discharge from the penis accompanied by pain, burning and swollen or painful testicles. If left untreated prostate complications and epididymitis can occur. In addition to vaginal and penile infection, the rectum may also become infected, resulting in anal discharge, itching, pain, and bleeding.

Since 2003, the first line treatment for infection with Neisseria gonnorrhoeae included antibiotics of the quinolone (ciprofloxacin) and third generation cephalosporin (ceftriaxone) classes. However, this treatment strategy may become ineffective due to the high rates of resistance to the quinolones and decreasing susceptibility to cephalosporins recently observed in the United States, Europe, Australia, and several Asian countries. The WHO has updated their treatment recommendations for gonococcal infections, but it may only be a matter of time until these treatments become obsolete and Neisseria gonnorrhoeae earns superbug status.

Through intensive research and development efforts in the area of topical microbicides for the prevention of sexually transmitted HIV and bacterial and fungal vaginosis infections, ImQuest BioSciences has gained significant expertise in many STIs, including Neisseria gonnorrhoeae. We understand the critical importance of developing effective next-generation antibiotics and are committed to assisting our clients in their product development. We have recently acquired a panel of drug resistant Neisseria gonnorrhoeae isolates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that can be used to identify and develop the next best antibiotic to overcome this highly pathogenic organism. Contact us to learn more about how we can help develop your candidate antibiotics and help keep Neisseria gonnorrhoeae off the "Superbug" list.


WHO guidelines for the treatment of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, 2016;

Costa-Lourenco et al., Braz J Microbiol. 2017; 48(4): 617-628

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