Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology IAMM  | About us |  Subscription |  e-Alerts  | Feedback |  Login   
  Print this page Email this page   Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size
 Home | Ahead of Print | Current Issue | Archives | Search | Instructions  
Users Online: 1294 Official Publication of Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists 
 ~ Next article
 ~ Previous article 
 ~ Table of Contents
 ~  Similar in PUBMED
 ~  Search Pubmed for
 ~  Search in Google Scholar for
 ~Related articles
 ~  Article in PDF (164 KB)
 ~  Citation Manager
 ~  Access Statistics
 ~  Reader Comments
 ~  Email Alert *
 ~  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

 ~  Abstract
 ~  Materials and Me...
 ~  Results
 ~  Discussion
 ~  References
 ~  Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded484    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 6    

Recommend this journal


Year : 2007  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 225-229

Epidemilogical analysis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates by antimicrobial susceptibility testing, auxotyping and serotyping

1 Department of Microbiology, Mualana Azad Medical College, New Delhi - 110 002, India
2 International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology , New Delhi - 110 067, India

Date of Submission25-Aug-2006
Date of Acceptance10-Feb-2007

Correspondence Address:
P Bhalla
Department of Microbiology, Mualana Azad Medical College, New Delhi - 110 002
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0255-0857.34763

Rights and Permissions

 ~ Abstract 

Purpose : This study was carried out to analyze the epidemiology of gonorrhea based on antimicrobial susceptibility testing, auxotyping and serotyping in New Delhi, India. Methods : Sixty gonococcal isolates from males with urethritis, females with endocervicitis and their sexual contacts were studied. The isolates were subjected to antimicrobial susceptibility testing, auxotyping and serotyping for epidemiological characterization. Results : We observed nine antibiotic resistance patterns. Ninety-eight percent of isolates were resistant to ciprofloxacin, while 20% isolates were penicillinase producing N. gonorrhoeae (PPNG) and 18.3% isolates were tetracycline resistant N. gonorrhoeae (TRNG). Eight auxotypes were observed, of which the NR (non-requiring), proline requiring and arginine requiring were most common auxotypes. On the basis of serotyping alone, the gonococcal isolates could be differentiated into three serogroups and 18 serovars. Serogroup WI represented 46.7% and WII/III represented 51.7% of isolates and one strain was WI and WII/WIII serogroup combination. When results of auxotyping and serotyping were combined (A/S) 29 A/S classes could be identified. The most prevalent A/S classes were NR/Aost, NR/Arost, Pro/Aost and Pro/Boprt. Conclusions : Although A/S typing had the highest discriminatory index, isolates recovered from index case and their sexual contacts were found to be identical by all typing methods.

Keywords: A/S typing, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, auxotyping, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, serotyping

How to cite this article:
Khaki P, Bhalla P, Sharma P, Chawla R, Bhalla K. Epidemilogical analysis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates by antimicrobial susceptibility testing, auxotyping and serotyping. Indian J Med Microbiol 2007;25:225-9

How to cite this URL:
Khaki P, Bhalla P, Sharma P, Chawla R, Bhalla K. Epidemilogical analysis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates by antimicrobial susceptibility testing, auxotyping and serotyping. Indian J Med Microbiol [serial online] 2007 [cited 2021 Feb 25];25:225-9. Available from:

Gonorrhea remains one of the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in developing countries. Two important factors, which are responsible for the high rate of prevalence of gonorrhea, are increasing antimicrobial resistance of N. gonorrhoeae and presence of a large reservoir of asymptomatic carriers that unknowingly transmit the disease to their sexual contacts.

The study of relationship between isolates of N. gonorrhoeae can contribute to the identification of outbreaks in sexual networks, re-infection, temporal and geographic changes, sexual abuse and monitoring of antibiotic resistance. [1],[2] Ideally, a system for classification of N. gonorrhoeae should be typable, reproducible and easy to perform, economical, rapid and give a high discriminatory index. Epidemiological studies can be carried on the basis of phenotypic and genotypic methods; however, the latter are more costly in terms of equipment, reagents and analyzing software and need more expertise. Various phenotypic techniques that have been used for epidemiological analysis of N. gonorrhoeae isolates include, antimicrobial susceptibility, auxotyping and serotyping. In India, only a few studies exploring the epidemiological aspects of N. gonorrhoeae have been carried out. [3],[4] Therefore, the aim of the present study was to analyze the epidemiological relationship between gonococcal strains isolated from patients attending sexually transmitted disease clinic and their sexual partners, on the basis of antimicrobial susceptibility testing, auxotyping and serotyping.

 ~ Materials and Methods Top

Gonococcal strains

Sixty consecutive N. gonorrhoeae strains isolated from 62 males with urethritis, 22 females with endocervicitis and 10 sexual contacts of these patients attending the STD clinic of Lok Nayak Hospital, New Delhi from January 2004 to June 2005, were studied.

The samples were inoculated directly onto the modified Thayer Martin medium and incubated at 35-36.5ºC in moist air containing 5% CO 2 for 48h. The colonies suspected to be N. gonorrhoeae were presumptively identified by Gram stain, oxidase test and superoxol test. Confirmation of identity after subculture on chocolate agar was based on rapid carbohydrate utilization test. Gonococcal isolates were stored at -70ºC in tryptic soy broth (Difco Laboratories, Detroit, MI, USA) containing 20% glycerol. [5]

Antimicrobial susceptibility testing

All the isolates were examined for susceptibility to penicillin (10 IU), ciprofloxacin (5 mg), tetracycline (30 mg), ceftriaxone (30 mg), spectinomycin (100 mg), cefixime (5 mg) and azithromycin (15 mg) by the agar disc diffusion method. In addition, the minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) were determined by E-test. The E-test was performed as specified in the manufacturer's (AB Biodisk, Sweden) product package insert. N. gonorrhoeae ATCC 49226 was included for quality control of antimicrobial susceptibility testing. The antimicrobial susceptibility was interpreted according to Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. [6],[7] β-lactamase production was assayed using nitrocefin discs (BBL Cefinase, Becton Dickinson and Company, Sparks, MD, USA). [5]


Auxotyping was performed using the method described by La Scolea and Young. [8] The strains were tested for their requirements for arginine, proline, uracil, hypoxanthine, serine, isolocine, cysteine and cystine. Isolates with no special nutritional requirements were classified as non-requiring (NR).


The isolates of N. gonorrhoeae were serotyped using the co-agglutination technique, as described by Coghill and Young. [9] Serotyping was performed using the Phadebact Monoclonal GC kit and the Phadebact GC serovar test (Boule Diagnostic AB, Hudding, Sweden), which consisted of five WI reagents (Ao, Ar, As, At and Av) and nine WII/III reagents (Bo, Bp, Br, Bs, Bt, Bu, Bv, Bx, By). All isolates were classified into serogroups WI and WII/III and further subdivided into serovars.

Discriminatory index

The discriminatory index for the various typing methods was calculated as described previously. [10]

 ~ Results Top

A total of 60 gonococcal strains were isolated from 52 (83.87%) out of 62 men with urethritis, 4 (18.18%) out of 22 women with endocervicitis and 4 (40%) out of 10 sexual contacts of these cases.

Antimicrobial susceptibility testing

All isolates were found to be susceptible to ceftriaxone, spectinomycin, cefixime and azithromycin. 59(98.3%), 20(33.3%) and 14(20%) strains were resistant to ciprofloxacin (quinolone resistant N. gonorrhoeae , QRNG), penicillin and tetracycline respectively. MIC 90 for ciprofloxacin, penicillin, tetracycline, ceftriaxone and spectinomycin was 8, 3, 24, 0.016 and 12 µg/mL respectively [Table - 1]. Twelve (20%) strains were found to be penicillinase producing N. gonorrhoeae (PPNG) and 11(18.3%) were tetracycline resistant N. gonorrhoeae (TRNG). We observed nine antibiotic resistance patterns with antimicrobial susceptibility testing [Table - 2]. The discriminatory index for antimicrobial susceptibility testing was 0.58.


The strains belonged to eight different auxotypes. The most common auxotypes were non-requiring (40 %), proline requiring (31.7%) and arginine requiring (11.7%) auxotypes [Table - 3]. All PPNG and TRNG strains were either NR or Pro auxotype. Auxotyping had a discriminatory index of 0.61.


Out of the total 60 strains studied, 28 (46.7%) isolates belonged to WI (IA) serogroup and 31 (51.7%) were of WII/III (IB) serogroup and one strain was WI and WII/WIII serogroup combination. Among the serogroup WI isolates, serovar Aost (50 %) was the most prevalent, followed by Arost (25%) and Ast (14.3%). The serogroup WII/WIII isolates were differentiated into 12 serovars, of which the most prevalent serovar was Boprt (48.4%) followed by Btuvy (13%), Bopty (9.6%). Thus 71 % of the serogroup WII/III strains included only three serovars [Table - 3]. One strain gave a positive agglutination reaction with both WI and WII/III serogroup reagents and was found to be of Av/Bx serovar. Serotyping had a discriminatory index of 0.81.

Auxotype/serovar typing

Sixty isolates were subdivided in to 29 auxotype/serovar (A/S) classes. The main A/S classes [Table - 3] were NR/Aost (10%), NR/Arost (10%), Pro/Aost (10%), Pro/Boprt (10%) and NR/Boprt (10%). A/S typing gave a highest discriminatory index (0.94).

Discriminatory index of typing methods

Amongst all the typing methods, A/S typing was found to have the highest discriminatory index [Table - 4]. However, isolates recovered from index case and their sexual contacts were found to be identical by all typing methods.

 ~ Discussion Top

The ability to characterize the strains of infectious agents that cause disease is central to epidemiological surveillance and public health decisions. Apart from being highly discriminatory an ideal bacterial typing system for epidemiological studies should be easy to perform and inexpensive. Typing systems used to characterize individual strains of N. gonorrhoeae include antimicrobial susceptibility testing, serotyping, auxotyping and molecular typing. Although molecular techniques give a higher discriminatory index, the main limitation of these methods are that they are expensive in terms of equipment, reagents and analyzing software, need more expertise, being laborious and the results from different laboratories are also difficult to compare. In India, a few epidemiological studies on N. gonorrhoeae, based on antimicrobial susceptibility testing, serotyping and auxotyping have been carried out. [3],[4],[11],[12],[13],[14]

As regards antimicrobial resistance pattern as an epidemiological marker, the incidence of PPNG reported from various parts of the India varies from 8-46.7%. [3],[12],[14] In a previous study from New Delhi in 1998, 28% TRNG was detected. [12] The majority of these studies categorized N. gonorrhoeae only into PPNG and non-PPNG or into TRNG and non-TRNG.

In the present study, we observed nine antibiotic resistance patterns. Fifty-nine (98%) isolates were resistant to ciprofloxacin (QRNG), while 12(20%) isolates were PPNG and 11(18.3%) isolates were TRNG. PPNG strains could be further subdivided into four categories and TRNG could be categorized into three categories as the basis of resistance to other antimicrobial agents tested. Thirty-five percent of strains were resistant to at least two antibiotics. The discriminatory index for antimicrobial susceptibility testing was 0.58.

The number of different auxotypes that have been reported by other studies is between 4-16. Although NR and proline requiring auxotypes often predominate, several other auxotypes have been detected only in certain parts of the world. [1],[15],[16],[17],[18] NR and proline requiring auxotypes were also most common auxotypes in Mumbai and Delhi. [3],[4] In our study also, the most prevalent auxotype was NR (40%), followed by proline requiring (31.7%) and arginine requiring (11.7%) auxotypes. Restriction of certain auxotypes to different geographical areas can help in global epidemiological studies. We found some new auxotypes that have not been previously reported before in Delhi, which indicates changes in the pool of circulating strains. Auxotyping gave a discriminatory index of 0.61.

In our study, 28 (46.7%) isolates belonged to WI (IA) serogroup and 31 (51.7%) were of WII/III (IB) serogroup and one strain was a combination of WI and WII/WIII serogroups. The data shows that serogroups WII/III are most prevalent in Delhi. This finding is in contrast to the results from a previous study, in which the serogroup WI was found to be the most prevalent serogroup in Mumbai. [3] However, this study did not identify the isolates up to serovar level.

From our data it could be deduced that there is a wide variety of serovars of N. gonorrhoeae circulating in New Delhi, but the serovars Aost (50%), Arost (25%) and Ast (14.3%) in the serogroup WI and those of Boprt (48.4%) and Btuvy (13%) in the serogroup WII/III, predominate. Similar studies carried out in other parts of the world showed that serovars Arost and Arst belonging to serogroup WI and Boprt and Bropyt belonging to serogroup WII/III were most common serovars. [1],[9] However, Dillon et al . reported that serovars Arost and Arot in the serogroup WI and serovars Boprt and Brpyust in the serogroup WII/III were most prevalent in Jamaica. [18] In the present study, one strain that cross-reacted with both Av and Bx reagents (Av/Bx) was detected. This result is consistent with previous studies in which the same Av/Bx strain has been reported. [9],[16] Serotyping had a discriminatory index of 0.81.

The results of our study showed that serotyping in combination with auxotyping (A/S typing) provided greater discrimination between isolates than the use of only one of these techniques. We observed 29 A/S classes, the most prevalent A/S classes being NR/Aost, NR/Arost, Pro/Aost and Pro/Boprt. In a study by Dillon et al ., the most common A/S classes were NR/Arot, Pro/Arost, NR/Bropt and Pro/Bropt. [18] A/S typing provided a discriminatory index of 0.94, which is an acceptable level of discrimination in a typing method. [10]

Our findings showed WI serogroup to be the most prevalent serogroup among the PPNG and TRNG isolates. This finding is in accordance with previous reports that the most prevalent serogroup among PPNG strains was WI. [3] The diversity of the auxotypes and serovars of PPNG and TRNG isolates suggests that these isolates in Delhi had multiple sources and did not represent the introduction and spread of a single strain. All isolates recovered from index case and their sexual contacts were found to be identical by all typing methods.

Our results illustrate that the discrimination is enhanced when auxotyping and serotyping are used in combination to produce auxotype/serovar (A/S) classes. Although antimicrobial susceptibility testing had less discriminatory index, it could be performed as a routine test for ongoing monitoring of antimicrobial susceptibility of N. gonorrhoeae strains.

 ~ References Top

1.Palomares JC, Lozano MC, Perea EJ. Antibiotic resistance, plasmid profile, auxotypes and serovars of N. gonorrhoeae strains isolated in Sevilla (Spain). Geniturin Med 1990;66:87-90.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Pierce RL, Thomas JC, Sparling PF, Fisher W, Davis RH, Alcorn T, et al. Epidemiological evaluation of the use of microbiological tools for identifying gonorrhoeae infection networks. Int J STD AIDS 1999;10:316-23.  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
3.Divekar AA, Gogate AS, Shivkar LK. Association between auxotypes, serotypes and antibiotic susceptibilities of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolated from women in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India . Sex Transm Dis 1999;26:358-63.   Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
4.Agarwal SK, Deb M, Prakash K, Sharma AK. Auxotyping of Neisseria gonorrhoeae as an additional epidemiological marker. Indian J Med Res 1992;95 :227-9.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]  
5.Laboratory Diagnosis of Gonorrhoea. WHO Regional publication, South East Asia Series No.33. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1999 .   Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute. Performance standards for antimicrobial susceptibility testing: 15 th informational supplement, M2-A8 and M7-A6. Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute; 2005.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Centers for Disease Control. Disk Diffusion Susceptibility Testing: Neisseria gonorrhoeae reference strains for antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Revised 2005. p. 1-11.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.La Scolea L, Young FE. Development of a defined minimal medium for growth of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Appl Microbiol 1974;28:70-6.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Coghill DV, Young H. Serological classification of Neisseria gonorrhoeae with monoclonal antibody co-agglutination reagents. Genitourin Med 1987;63:225-32.  Back to cited text no. 9  [PUBMED]  
10.Hunter PR, Gaston MA. Numerical index of discriminatory ability of typing systems: An application of Simpson's index of diversity. J Clin Microbiol 1988;26:2465-6.  Back to cited text no. 10  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
11.Kulkarni MG, Mehta PR, Rairikar SV, Murti PK, Banker DD. Incidence of penicillinase producing Neisseria gonorrhoeae (PPNG) and their antibiotic sensitivity pattern in Bombay . Indian J Sex Transm Dis 1987;8:7-9.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Bhalla P, Sethi K, Reddy BS, Mathur MD. Antimicrobial susceptibility and plasmid profile of Neisseria gonorrhoeae in India (New Delhi). Sex Transm Infect 1998;74:210-2.   Back to cited text no. 12  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
13.Ray K, Bala M, Kumar J, Misra RS. Trend of antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae at New Delhi, India. Int J STD AIDS 2000;11:115-8.  Back to cited text no. 13  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
14.Chowdhry S, Pandhi D, Vidhani S, Bhalla P, Reddy BS. High incidence of treatment failure of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates to ciprofloxacin in male gonococcal urethritis in Delhi . Int J STD AIDS 2002;13:564-7.  Back to cited text no. 14  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
15.Lind I, Arborio M, Bentzon MW, Buisson Y, Guibourdenche M, Reimann K, et al. The Epidemiology of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates in Dakar, Senegal 1982-1986: Antimicrobial resistance, auxotypes and plasmid profiles. Genitourin Med 1991;67:107-13.  Back to cited text no. 15  [PUBMED]  
16.De La Fuente L, Vazquez JA. Genetic structure of non-penicillinase-producing Neisseria gonorrhoeae strains in relation to auxotyping and serovar class. J Infect Dis 1994;170:696-700.  Back to cited text no. 16    
17.Odugbemi TO, Brown ST, Biddle J, Johnson S, Perkins G, DeWitt W, et al. Plasmid profiles, serotyping and auxotyping of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates from Africa . Br J Vener Dis 1983;59:41-3.  Back to cited text no. 17  [PUBMED]  
18.Dillon JR, Carballo M, King SD, Brathwaite AR. Auxotypes, plasmid contents and serovars of gonococcal strains (PPNG and non-PPNG) from Jamaica. Genitourin Med 1987;63:233-8.  Back to cited text no. 18  [PUBMED]  


  [Table - 1], [Table - 2], [Table - 3], [Table - 4]

This article has been cited by
1 On the pathway to better birth outcomes? A systematic review of azithromycin and curable sexually transmitted infections
R Matthew Chico,Berkin B Hack,Melanie J Newport,Enesia Ngulube,Daniel Chandramohan
Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy. 2013; 11(12): 1303
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Antimicrobial susceptibility and genetic characteristics of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates from India, Pakistan and Bhutan in 2007–2011
Sunil Sethi,Daniel Golparian,Manju Bala,Dorji Dorji,Muhammad Ibrahim,Kausar Jabeen,Magnus Unemo
BMC Infectious Diseases. 2013; 13(1): 35
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Molecular Epidemiology of ß-Lactamase–Producing Neisseria gonorrhoeae Strains in Manaus, AM, Brazil
William Antunes Ferreira,Cristina Motta Ferreira,Felipe Gomes Naveca,Waldemara de Souza Vasconcelos,Jairo de Souza Gomes,Maria de Fátima Pinto da Silva,Maria das Graças Costa Alecrim
Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2013; 40(6): 469
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Evaluation of predominant neisseria gonorrhoeae strain types and its correlation with fluoroquinolone resistance in Pakistan
Nizamuddin, S., Jabeen, K., Zafar, A.
Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. 2011; 61(5): 446-449
5 Use of VNTR typing to test genetic diversity of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates
A. V. Kushnir, T. A. Muminov, A. I. Baev, E. A. Khrapov, M. L. Filipenko
Molecular Genetics Microbiology and Virology. 2011; 26(1): 27
[VIEW] | [DOI]
6 The modified differential fluorescent staining method for diagnosing n. gonorrhoeae, and clinical-dye correlation of the diplococcus | [Tinción diferencial de fluorescencia modificada en el diagnóstico de N. gonorrhoeae y correlación clínico- tintorial del diplococo]
Flores F., E.M., Albarado Y., L.S.
Salus. 2009; 13(3): 39-50


Print this article  Email this article
Previous article Next article


© 2004 - Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow

Online since April 2001, new site since 1st August '04