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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2011 Jul;24(3):447-58. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00040-10.

Review and international recommendation of methods for typing neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates and their implications for improved knowledge of gonococcal epidemiology, treatment, and biology.

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National Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Clinical Microbiology, Orebro University Hospital, Sweden.


Gonorrhea, which may become untreatable due to multiple resistance to available antibiotics, remains a public health problem worldwide. Precise methods for typing Neisseria gonorrhoeae, together with epidemiological information, are crucial for an enhanced understanding regarding issues involving epidemiology, test of cure and contact tracing, identifying core groups and risk behaviors, and recommending effective antimicrobial treatment, control, and preventive measures. This review evaluates methods for typing N. gonorrhoeae isolates and recommends various methods for different situations. Phenotypic typing methods, as well as some now-outdated DNA-based methods, have limited usefulness in differentiating between strains of N. gonorrhoeae. Genotypic methods based on DNA sequencing are preferred, and the selection of the appropriate genotypic method should be guided by its performance characteristics and whether short-term epidemiology (microepidemiology) or long-term and/or global epidemiology (macroepidemiology) matters are being investigated. Currently, for microepidemiological questions, the best methods for fast, objective, portable, highly discriminatory, reproducible, typeable, and high-throughput characterization are N. gonorrhoeae multiantigen sequence typing (NG-MAST) or full- or extended-length porB gene sequencing. However, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and Opa typing can be valuable in specific situations, i.e., extreme microepidemiology, despite their limitations. For macroepidemiological studies and phylogenetic studies, DNA sequencing of chromosomal housekeeping genes, such as multilocus sequence typing (MLST), provides a more nuanced understanding.

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