Surveillance of antibiotic resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae in the WHO Western Pacific and South East Asian regions, 2007-2008.
Long-term surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae has been conducted in the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region (WPR) to optimise antibiotic treatment of gonococcal disease since 1992. In 2007 and 2008, this Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (GASP) was enhanced by the inclusion of data from the South East Asian Region (SEAR) and recruitment of additional centres within the WPR. Approximately 17,450 N. gonorrhoeae were examined for their susceptibility to one or more antibiotics used for the treatment of gonorrhoea by external quality controlled methods in 24 reporting centres in 20 countries and/or jurisdictions. A high proportion of penicillin and/or quinolone resistance was again detected amongst isolates tested in North Asia and the WHO SEAR, but much lower rates of penicillin resistance and little quinolone resistance was present in most of the Pacific Island countries. The proportion of gonococci reported as 'resistant', 'less susceptible' or 'non-susceptible' gonococci to the third-generation cephalosporin antibiotic ceftriaxone lay in a wide range, but no major changes were evident in cephalosporin minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) patterns in 2007-2008. Altered cephalosporin susceptibility was associated with treatment failures following therapy with oral third-generation cephalosporins. There is a need for revision and clarification of some of the in vitro criteria that are currently used to categorise the clinical importance of gonococci with different ceftriaxone and oral cephalosporin MIC levels. The number of instances of spectinomycin resistance remained low. A high proportion of strains tested continued to exhibit a form of plasmid mediated high level resistance to tetracyclines. The continuing emergence and spread of antibiotic resistant gonococci in and from the WHO WPR and SEAR supports the need for gonococcal antimicrobial resistance surveillance programs such as GASP to be maintained and potentially expanded.