What’s left in the cupboard? Older antimicrobials for treating gonorrhoea

Helen Fifer, David Livermore, Thinushaa Uthayakumaran, Neil Woodford, Michelle J. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Neisseria gonorrhoeae has developed resistance to all antimicrobials used to treat gonorrhoea, with even ceftriaxone being undermined. It is therefore important to examine any potential to redeploy older antimicrobials routinely used for other infections to treat ceftriaxone-resistant gonococcal infections. Objectives: We examined the susceptibility of N. gonorrhoeae to aztreonam, chloramphenicol, co-trimoxazole, fosfomycin, piperacillin/tazobactam and rifampicin. Methods: N. gonorrhoeae isolates (n = 94) were selected to include a range of antimicrobial susceptibilities: 58 were collected in the Gonococcal Resistance to Antimicrobials Surveillance Programme; 17 were clinical isolates referred to the PHE reference laboratory; and 19 were control strains. MICs were determined by agar dilution for the six study antimicrobials and for ceftriaxone and azithromycin as comparators. Results: There was correlation between piperacillin/tazobactam and ceftriaxone MICs, but all five isolates with high ceftriaxone MICs (>0.5 mg/L) were inhibited by piperacillin/tazobactam at 0.06–0.5 mg/L. Aztreonam MICs for ceftriaxone-resistant isolates exceeded those of ceftriaxone. Among non-β-lactams, fosfomycin and co-trimoxazole had low, tightly clustered MICs, suggesting widespread susceptibility, rifampicin split the collection into highly susceptible and highly resistant groups and chloramphenicol had a wide MIC distribution. Conclusions: Although unsuitable for empirical use, piperacillin/tazobactam, fosfomycin, co-trimoxazole, rifampicin and, possibly, chloramphenicol could be considered for individual patients with ceftriaxone-resistant gonococcal infection once MICs are known. Wider surveillance of the susceptibility of N. gonorrhoeae to these agents is needed, along with clinical trials and the establishment of clinical breakpoints for N gonorrhoeae.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215–1220
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number5
Early online date20 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

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