Larsen, Sandra A. Sexually Transmitted Disease Laboratory Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
Morse, Stephen A. Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Laboratory Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
Last reviewed:November 2020
- Control and prevention
- Clinical aspects
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A common sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is transmitted via sexual contact. The causative agent is Neisseria gonorrhoeae (see illustration), which is commonly termed gonococcus. Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria are Gram-negative microorganisms that usually appear as pairs (diplococci). Humans are the only natural hosts for gonococci, which directly infect the epithelium of the mucous membranes of the human genital tract, pharynx, rectum, or conjunctiva. Local epithelial cell destruction usually occurs, but gonococci may spread to adjacent organs or disseminate via the bloodstream. In women, local complications include inflammation of the uterine lining (endometritis), inflammation of the fallopian tube (salpingitis), inflammation of the abdominal wall (peritonitis), and inflammation of Bartholin's glands (bartholinitis). In men, local complications include periurethral abscess and inflammation of a duct connected to the testes (epididymitis). Systemic manifestations, such as arthritis and dermatitis, may develop. In rare cases, endocarditis or meningitis may occur. See also: Bacteria; Infection; Infectious disease; Medical bacteriology; Sexually transmitted diseases
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