Neisseria gonorrhoeae is the bacterium responsible for gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection found all over the world. Infections with this organism can be treated with antibiotics. It is sometimes necessary to try several medications to address a drug resistant strain of this bacterium, a growing problem in regions where people do not follow the instructions provided with their antibiotics. Treatment for infection with this organism can be supervised by a general practitioner, urologist, or gynecologist. Advanced infections may require treatment from specialists.
These bacteria are roughly bean-shaped, and usually found in pairs. They are gram negative and motile, using a specialized hook called a pilus to pull themselves along surfaces. Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a fastidious organism that can be challenging to grow in culture and it enters the body through the mucus membranes found in the anus, mouth, respiratory tract, and female reproductive tract.
If an infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae is not treated or does not respond to treatments, the bacteria can spread into other regions of the body. This can result in permanent damage, especially if a patient has a compromised immune system. Most commonly, gonorrhoeae is identified by pus-like discharges from the reproductive tract, difficulty urinating, itching or burning sensations, inflammation, and swelling. A culture can be taken to identify the bacteria present on the body.
When the bacteria spread unchecked, they can enter the joints, causing arthritis. They can also penetrate into the higher regions of the female reproductive tract, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease and potential infertility. Neisseria gonorrhoeae can even be found in the heart valves in highly progressed cases, and it can lead to severe skin lesions that include tissue death.
In people with Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the infection can be treated with antibiotic drugs to kill the organisms. Follow-up swabs can be taken to confirm that the bacteria are no longer present so the patient can be cleared. It is important to avoid sexual contact while an active gonorrhea infection is occurring, and to be careful about personal hygiene, because it is possible to pass the bacteria in environments like bathrooms.
Sometimes there are no obvious signs and symptoms of gonorrhea. For this reason, sexually active people are strongly encouraged to get regular screenings for sexually transmitted infections. Many doctors offer such screenings during annual exams and can screen for a number of common infections at the same time. Doctors may recommend additional tests depending on the type of sexual activity a patient engages in.