Gonorrhea infection in women: prevalence, effects, screening, and management
Cheryl K Walker, Richard L Sweet
Women’s Center for Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of California, Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, CA, USA
Abstract: Gonorrhea is a set of clinical conditions resulting from infection with the sexually-acquired bacterial pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Acquisition may involve multiple mucosal sites in the lower female genital tract, including the urethra, cervix, Bartholin’s and Skene’s glands, as well as the anorectal canal, pharynx, and conjunctivae. It may spread to the upper genital tract, uterine tubes, abdominal cavity, and other systemic sites. Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported sexually-transmitted infection in the US and rates are higher among women than men. Women and infants are affected disproportionately by gonorrhea, because early infection may be asymptomatic and also because extension of infection is often associated with serious sequelae. Screening is critical for infection identification and the prevention or limitation of upper genital tract spread, and horizontal and vertical transmission. Routine genital screening is recommended annually for all sexually active women at risk for infection, including women aged < 25 years and older women with one or more of the following risks: a previous gonorrhea infection, the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases, new or multiple sex partners, inconsistent condom use, commercial sex work, drug use, or human immunodeficiency virus infection with sexual activity or pregnancy. Pharyngeal gonococcal infections are common in adolescents, and direct culture screening is necessary to identify affected individuals. Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) are considered the standard for screening and diagnosis. Although urine NAAT testing is most commonly used, there is growing support for vaginal swabs collected by providers or patients themselves. Resistance to all antibiotics currently recommended for the treatment of gonorrhea has been documented and complicates therapeutic strategies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend treatment of gonorrhea with a single class of drugs, ie, the cephalosporins.
Keywords: gonorrhea, women, infection, treatment, cephalosporins
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