Gonorrhea, caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is the second most prevalent bacterial sexually transmitted disease globally. The WHO estimates that Gonorrhea 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 Gonorrhea 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 analyzed at the Centre for Genomic Pathogen Surveillance and made accessible via their online platform, creating the first European-wide database of Gonorrhea.
As documented in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers also showed 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.
This genomic approach could one day help doctors prescribe the most effective antibiotics for each region.
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