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Clin Infect Dis. 2006 Nov 15;43(10):1284-9. Epub 2006 Oct 10.

Prevalence and incidence of pharyngeal gonorrhea in a longitudinal sample of men who have sex with men: the EXPLORE study.

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  • 1Department of Community and Family Medicine, University of California San Francisco, USA.



The prevalence of gonorrhea of the pharynx among select samples of men who have sex with men (MSM) ranges from 9% to 15%. To our knowledge, there have been no longitudinal studies in a prospective MSM cohort to estimate pharyngeal gonorrhea incidence or predictors of infection. We examined the prevalence, incidence, and sociodemographic and behavioral predictors of pharyngeal gonorrhea in a cohort of sexually active, human immunodeficiency virus-negative MSM.


We conducted a prospective study of pharyngeal gonorrhea among MSM who were enrolled in a behavioral intervention study to prevent human immunodeficiency virus infection (Project EXPLORE). Participants were enrolled in this ancillary study from March 2001 through July 2003. At baseline and every 6 months thereafter until 31 July 2003, participants were tested for pharyngeal gonorrhea and were administered a questionnaire regarding their oral sex practices. Rectal and urethral gonorrhea testing were also performed.


Prevalence of pharyngeal gonorrhea was 5.5% (136 cases diagnosed from 2475 tests). The incidence rate was 11.2 cases per 100 person-years. Pharyngeal gonorrhea was positively associated with younger age and the number of insertive oral sex partners in the past 3 months. Ejaculation did not increase the risk of pharyngeal gonorrhea. Gonorrhea of the pharynx was asymptomatic in 92% of cases.


The pharynx is a common, asymptomatic reservoir for gonorrhea in sexually active MSM.

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