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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Characterization of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates detected in Switzerland (1998–2012): emergence of multidrug-resistant clones less susceptible to cephalosporins

Andrea Endimiani1*, Yuvia N Guilarte1, Regula Tinguely1, Lea Hirzberger12, Sylvia Selvini1, Agnese Lupo1, Christoph Hauser2 and Hansjakob Furrer2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

2 Department of Infectious Diseases, Bern University Hospital and University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:106  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-106

Published: 25 February 2014



The spread of Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ng) isolates resistant to the clinically implemented antibiotics is challenging the efficacy of treatments. Unfortunately, phenotypic and molecular data regarding Ng detected in Switzerland are scarce.


We compared the characteristics of Ng detected during 1998–2001 (n = 26) to those detected during 2009–2012 (n = 34). MICs were obtained with the Etest and interpreted as non-susceptible (non-S) according to EUCAST criteria. Sequence type (ST) was achieved implementing the NG-MAST. BlaTEM, ponA, penA, mtrR, penB, tet(M), gyrA, parC, mefA, ermA/B/C/F, rplD, rplV, and 23S rRNA genes were analyzed.


The following susceptibility results were obtained (period: % of non-S, MIC90 in mg/L): penicillin (1998–2001: 42.3%, 3; 2009–2012: 85.3%, 16), cefixime (1998–2001: 0%, ≤0.016; 2009–2012: 8.8%, 0.125), ceftriaxone (1998–2001: 0%, 0.004; 2009–2012: 0%, 0.047), ciprofloxacin (1998–2001: 7.7%, 0.006; 2009–2012: 73.5%, ≥32), azithromycin (1998–2001: 11.5%, 0.25; 2009–2012: 23.6%, 0.38), tetracycline (1998–2001: 65.4%, 12; 2009–2012: 88.2%, 24), spectinomycin (1998–2001: 0%, 12; 2009–2012: 0%, 8). The prevalence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) isolates increased from 7.7% in 1998–2001 to 70.6% in 2009–2012. International STs and genogroups (G) emerged during 2009–2012 (G1407, 29.4%; G2992, 11.7%; G225, 8.8%). These isolates possessed distinctive mechanisms of resistance (e.g., G1407: PBP1 with L421, PBP2 pattern XXXIV, GyrA with S91F and D95G, ParC with S87R, PorB with G120K and A121N, mtrR promoter with A deletion).


The prevalence of penicillin- ciprofloxacin- and tetracycline-resistant Ng has reached dramatic levels, whereas cefixime and ceftriaxone show MICs that tend to increase during time. International MDR clones less susceptible to cephalosporins are rapidly emerging indicating that the era of untreatable gonococcal infections is close.

Gonococcus; ST1407; MIC; Ceftriaxone; Cefixime; MDR; NG-MAST; PBP1; PBP2; Mosaic