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What is Neisseria Gonorrhoeae?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By burcinc — On Mar 20, 2012

@ysmina-- I completely agree with your comments. Everyone needs to be extra careful about gonorrhea from now on. Apparently until recently, gonorrhea virus was relatively easy to treat and responded well to antibiotics. But after several studies on neisseria gonorrhoeae morphology, doctors are now saying that the virus has been developing resistance to these antibiotics and is on the way to becoming a superbug.

I think this is really scary. My cousin had gonorrhea for a while and I know from her that the symptoms of the disease can be very uncomfortable and disruptive. I can't even imagine how it would have been for her if the antibiotics she took didn't work on the virus.

Not just gonorrhea, but other sexually transmitted disease may be harder to treat in the near future. That's why I think we need to be even more careful than before.

By ysmina — On Mar 19, 2012

@ddljohn-- You know, I'm really glad you asked about this. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of people ask similar questions to so called medical professionals online. And sadly, some of them give very wrong information and say that gonorrhea cannot be transmitted via oral sex. That is wrong.

Someone who is infected with the neisseria gonorrhoeae virus can infect you during oral sex, vaginal sex or anal sex. It is even possible to directly infect other body parts if there is contact with bodily fluids carrying the virus. For example, the virus can settle in the throat during oral sex. Or if someone with the bodily fluids on their hand touch their eye or nose, they can infect those areas with the virus as well.

Gonorrhea is no joke and using condoms is an absolute must when having sex with someone who possibly has sexually transmitted diseases. If you have neisseria gonorrhoeae symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.

By ddljohn — On Mar 19, 2012

I had heard before that it is not possible to pick up gonorrhea from oral sex. However, I'm reading here that it is possible to pick it up from bathrooms. If that is true, I'm pretty sure that it can be transmitted through oral sex too, right?

Can someone please clarify this for me? I know that HIV for example, cannot be transferred via oral sex. But I'm still confused about what the verdict is for gonorrhea.

Also, what is the difference between neisseria gonorrhoea and chlamydia? I keep seeing these two mentioned together on forums. How are they related?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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