Neisserea gonorrhoeae continues to be a leading cause of sexually transmitted disease (STD). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an estimated 700,000 new infections in the United States each year. Commonly referred to as "GC," the organism is always pathogenic and causes a variety of conditions, including disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). In the United States, the most common cause of septic arthritis is N. gonorrhoeae. Comparatively, the number of cases in Western Europe are relatively rare. Disseminated disease occurs in 0.5% to 3% of all gonorrhea cases.
Wide spread drug resistance, including fluoroquinolones, of N. gonorrhoeae to antimicrobial agents is now considered a significant challenge to controlling gonorrhea. The last available effective class of antibiotics is the cephalosporins, but the CDC's surveillance suggests that cefixime is now becoming less effective.
The inaccurate identification and reporting of N. gonorrhoeae can have serious social and medicolegal consequences. There are several Neisseria and other species that resemble N. gonorrhoeae that may reside in the female genital tract. This leads to the potential for misidentification of these organisms as N. gonorrhoeae, unless the appropriate differential tests are performed.