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Gonococcal Infections

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010



Gonococcal Infections in Adolescents and Adults

In the United States, an estimated 700,000 new N. gonorrhoeae infections occur each year (93,293). Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported bacterial STD. The majority of urethral infections caused by N. gonorrhoeae among men produce symptoms that cause them to seek curative treatment soon enough to prevent serious sequelae, but treatment might not be soon enough to prevent transmission to others. Among women, gonococcal infections might not produce recognizable symptoms until complications (e.g., PID) have occurred. PID can result in tubal scarring that can lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy.

The prevalence of gonorrhea varies widely among communities and populations; health-care providers should consider local gonorrhea epidemiology when making screening decisions. Although widespread screening is not recommended because gonococcal infections among women are frequently asymptomatic, targeted screening of young women (i.e., those aged <25 years) at increased risk for infection is a primary component of gonorrhea control in the United States. For sexually active women, including those who are pregnant, USPSTF (82) recommends that clinicians provide gonorrhea screening only to those at increased risk for infection (e.g., women with previous gonorrhea infection, other STDs, new or multiple sex partners, and inconsistent condom use; those who engage in commercial sex work and drug use; women in certain demographic groups; and those living in communities with a high prevalence of disease). USPSTF does not recommend screening for gonorrhea in men and women who are at low risk for infection (82).

Diagnostic Considerations

Because of its high specificity (>99%) and sensitivity (>95%), a Gram stain of a male urethral specimen that demonstrates polymorphonuclear leukocytes with intracellular Gram-negative diplococci can be considered diagnostic for infection with N. gonorrhoeae in symptomatic men. However, because of lower sensitivity, a negative Gram stain should not be considered sufficient for ruling out infection in asymptomatic men. In addition, Gram stain of endocervical specimens, pharyngeal, or rectal specimens also are not sufficient to detect infection, and therefore are not recommended. Specific testing for N. gonorrhoeae is recommended because of the increased utility and availability of highly sensitive and specific testing methods and because a specific diagnosis might enhance partner notification.

Specific diagnosis of infection with N. gonorrhoeae can be performed by testing endocervical, vaginal, urethral (men only), or urine specimens. Culture, nucleic acid hybridization tests, and NAATs are available for the detection of genitourinary infection with N. gonorrhoeae (197). Culture and nucleic acid hybridization tests require female endocervical or male urethral swab specimens. NAATs allow testing of the widest variety of specimen types including endocervical swabs, vaginal swabs, urethral swabs (men), and urine (from both men and women), and they are FDA-cleared for use. However, product inserts for each NAAT vendor must be carefully examined, because specimen types that are FDA-cleared for use vary by test. NAAT tests are not FDA-cleared for use in the rectum, pharynx, and conjunctiva; however, some public and private laboratories have established performance specifications for using NAAT with rectal and pharyngeal swab specimens, thereby allowing results to be used for clinical management. Laboratories that establish performance specifications for the use of NAATs with nongenital specimens must ensure that specificity is not compromised by cross-reaction with nongonococcal Neisseria species. The sensitivity of NAATs for the detection of N. gonorrhoeae in genital and nongenital anatomic sites is superior to culture but varies by NAAT type (197,278-281).

Because nonculture tests cannot provide antimicrobial susceptibility results, in cases of suspected or documented treatment failure, clinicians should perform both culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing.

All persons found to have who have gonorrhea also should be tested for other STDs, including chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV.

Dual Therapy for Gonococcal and Chlamydial Infections

Patients infected with N. gonorrhoeae frequently are coinfected with C. trachomatis; this finding has led to the recommendation that patients treated for gonococcal infection also be treated routinely with a regimen that is effective against uncomplicated genital C. trachomatis infection (294). Because most gonococci in the United States are susceptible to doxycycline and azithromycin, routine cotreatment might also hinder the development of antimicrobial-resistant N. gonorrhoeae. Limited data suggest that dual treatment with azithromycin might enhance treatment efficacy for pharyngeal infection when using oral cephalosporins (295,296).

Antimicrobial-Resistant N. gonorrhoeae

Gonorrhea treatment is complicated by the ability of N. gonorrhoeae to develop resistance to antimicrobial therapies (297). Quinolone-resistant N. gonorrhoeae strains are now widely disseminated throughout the United States and the world (298). As of April 2007, quinolones are no longer recommended in the United States for the treatment of gonorrhea and associated conditions, such as PID (299). Consequently, only one class of antimicrobials, the cephalosporins, is recommended and available for the treatment of gonorrhea in the United States. The CDC website ( and state health departments can provide the most current information.

The proportion of isolates in CDC's Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project (GISP) demonstrating decreased susceptibility to ceftriaxone or cefixime has remained very low over time; during 1987–2008, only four isolates were found to have decreased susceptibility to ceftriaxone, and 48 isolates had decreased susceptibility to cefixime. In 2008, no isolates demonstrated decreased susceptibility to ceftriaxone; cefixime was not part of test panel during that year (93). Although only two cases of suspected treatment failure with ceftriaxone have been reported (300), approximately 50 patients are thought to have failed oral cephalosporin treatment (301-304).

Most of the treatment failures resulting from use of oral cephalosporins have been reported from Asian countries, although one possible case was reported in Hawaii in 2001 (305). To ensure appropriate antibiotic therapy, clinicians should ask patients testing positive for gonorrhea about recent travel to and sexual activity in these countries.

Decreased susceptibility of N. gonorrhoeae to cephalosporins and other antimicrobials is expected to continue to spread; therefore, state and local surveillance for antimicrobial resistance is crucial for guiding local therapy recommendations (297). GISP, which samples approximately 3% of all U.S. men who have gonococcal infections, is a mainstay of surveillance. However, surveillance by clinicians also is critical. Clinicians who diagnose N. gonorrhoeae infection in a patient with suspected cephalosporin treatment failure should perform culture and susceptibility testing of relevant clinical specimens, consult a specialist for guidance in clinical management, and report the case to CDC through state and local public health authorities. Health departments should prioritize partner notification and contact tracing of patients with N. gonorrhoeae infection thought to be associated with cephalosporin treatment failure or associated with patients whose isolates demonstrate decreased susceptibility to cephalosporin.

Uncomplicated Gonococcal Infections of the Cervix, Urethra, and Rectum

Recommended Regimens

See note above for treatment recommendations updated August 2012. The regimen below is from December 2010 and is maintained for archival purposes only.

Ceftriaxone 250 mg IM in a single dose


Cefixime 400 mg orally in a single dose


Single-dose injectible cephalosporin regimens


Azithromycin 1g orally in a single dose


Doxycycline 100 mg orally twice a day for 7 days

To maximize compliance with recommended therapies, medications for gonococcal infections should be dispensed on site. Ceftriaxone in a single injection of 250 mg provides sustained, high bactericidal levels in the blood. Extensive clinical experience indicates that ceftriaxone is safe and effective for the treatment of uncomplicated gonorrhea at all anatomic sites, curing 99.2% of uncomplicated urogenital and anorectal and 98.9% of pharyngeal infections in published clinical trials (306,307). A 250-mg dose of ceftriaxone is now recommended over a 125-mg dose given the 1) increasingly wide geographic distribution of isolates demonstrating decreased susceptibility to cephalosporins in vitro, 2) reports of ceftriaxone treatment failures, 3) improved efficacy of ceftriaxone 250 mg in pharyngeal infection (which is often unrecognized), and 4) the utility of having a simple and consistent recommendation for treatment regardless of the anatomic site involved.

A 400-mg oral dose of cefixime does not provide as high, nor as sustained, a bactericidal level as that provided by the 250-mg dose of ceftriaxone. In published clinical trials, the 400-mg dose cured 97.5% of uncomplicated urogenital and anorectal (95% CI = 95.4%–99.8%) and 92.3% of pharyngeal gonococcal infections (95% CI = 74.9%–99.1%) (306,307). Although cefixime can be administered orally, this advantage is offset by the limited efficacy of cefixime (as well as other oral cephalosporins) for treating gonococcal infections of the pharynx. Providers should inquire about oral sexual exposure and if reported, treat these patients with ceftriaxone because of this drug's well documented efficacy in treating pharyngeal infection.

Single-dose injectible cephalosporin regimens (other than ceftriaxone 250 mg IM) that are safe and highly effective against uncomplicated urogenital and anorectal gonococcal infections include ceftizoxime (500 mg, administered IM), cefoxitin (2 g, administered IM with probenecid 1 g orally), and cefotaxime (500 mg, administered IM). None of the injectible cephalosporins offer any advantage over ceftriaxone for urogenital infection, and efficacy for pharyngeal infection is less certain (306,307).

Alternative Regimens

Several other antimicrobials are active against N. gonorrhoeae, but none have substantial advantages over the recommended regimens, and they should not be used if pharyngeal infection is suspected. Some evidence suggests that cefpodoxime 400-mg orally can be considered an alternative in the treatment of uncomplicated urogenital gonorrhea; this regimen meets the minimum efficacy criteria for alternative regimens for urogenital infection (demonstrated efficacy of ≥95% in clinical trials with lower 95% CI of >90%) (307). In one clinical trial, cefpodoxime 400 mg orally was found to have a urogenital and rectal cure rate of 96.6% (95% CI = 93.9%), but the efficacy of cefpodoxime 400 mg orally at the pharyngeal site was poor (70.3%, 95% CI = 53.0%) (Hall, unpublished data, 2010). Gonococcal strains with decreased susceptibility to oral cephalosporins have been reported in the United States (308). With a cure rate of 96.5% (95% CI = 93.6%–98.3%) for urogenital and rectal infection, cefpodoxime proxetil 200 mg orally meets the criteria for an alternative regimen; however, its use is not advised because of concerns about the pharmacodynamics of cefpodoxime using this dose. Efficacy in treating pharyngeal infection with cefpodoxime 200 mg is unsatisfactory (78.9%; 95% CI = 54.5%–94%), as with cefpodoxime at the 400-mg dose.

Treatment with cefuroxime axetil 1 g orally meets the criteria for minimum efficacy as an alternative regimen for urogenital and rectal infection (95.9%; 95% CI = 94.3%–97.2%), but the pharmacodynamics of cefuroxime axetil 1 g orally are less favorable than those of cefpodoxime 400 mg, cefixime 400 mg, or ceftriaxone 125 mg (309). The efficacy of cefuroxime axetil 1 g orally in treating pharyngeal infection is poor (56.9%; 95% CI = 42.2%–70.7%).

Spectinomycin, which is useful in persons who cannot tolerate cephalosporins, is expensive, must be injected, and is not available in the United States (updates available at: (310). However, it has been effective in published clinical trials, curing 98.2% of uncomplicated urogenital and anorectal gonococcal infections. Spectinomycin has poor efficacy against pharyngeal infection (51.8%; 95% CI = 38.7%–64.9%) (306).

Azithromycin 2 g orally is effective against uncomplicated gonococcal infection (99.2%; 95% CI = 97.3%–99.9%), but concerns over the ease with which N. gonorrhoeae can develop resistance to macrolides should restrict its use to limited circumstances. Although azithromycin 1 g meets alternative regimen criteria (97.6%; 95% CI = 95.7%–98.9%), it is not recommended because several studies have documented treatment failures, and concerns about possible rapid emergence of antimicrobial resistance with the 1-g dose of azithromycin are even greater than with the 2-g dose (311–313). N. gonorrhoeae in the United States is not adequately susceptible to penicillins, tetracyclines, and older macrolides (e.g., erythromycin) for these antimicrobials to be recommended.

Uncomplicated Gonococcal Infections of the Pharynx

Most gonococcal infections of the pharynx are asymptomatic and can be relatively common in some populations (103,278,279,314). Gonococcal infections of the pharynx are more difficult to eradicate than infections at urogenital and anorectal sites (315). Few antimicrobial regimens, including those involving oral cephalosporins, can reliably cure >90% of gonococcal pharyngeal infections (306,307). Providers should ask their patients about oral sexual exposure; if reported, patients should be treated with a regimen with acceptable efficacy against pharyngeal infection. Chlamydial coinfection of the pharynx is unusual; however, because coinfection at genital sites sometimes occurs, treatment for both gonorrhea and chlamydia is recommended.

Recommended Regimens

See note above for treatment recommendations updated August 2012. The regimen below is from December 2010 and is maintained for archival purposes only.

Ceftriaxone 250 mg IM in a single dose

Ceftriaxone 250 mg IM in a single dose


Azithromycin 1g orally in a single dose


Doxycycline 100 mg orally twice a day for 7 days


Patients diagnosed with uncomplicated gonorrhea who are treated with any of the recommended or alternative regimens do not need a test-of-cure (i.e., repeat testing 3-4 weeks after completing therapy). Patients who have symptoms that persist after treatment should be evaluated by culture for N. gonorrhoeae, and any gonococci isolated should be tested for antimicrobial susceptibility. Persistent urethritis, cervicitis, or proctitis also might be caused by C. trachomatis or other organisms.

N. gonorrhoeae infection is prevalent among patients who have been diagnosed with and treated for gonorrhea in the preceding several months (64,251,252,267). Most infections result from reinfection rather than treatment failure, indicating a need for improved patient education and referral of sex partners. Clinicians should advise patients with gonorrhea to be retested 3 months after treatment. If patients do not seek medical care for retesting in 3 months, providers are encouraged to test these patients whenever they next seek medical care within the following 12 months, regardless of whether the patients believe that their sex partners were treated. Retesting is distinct from test-of-cure to detect therapeutic failure, which is not recommended.

Management of Sex Partners

Effective clinical management of patients with treatable STDs requires treatment of the patients' recent sex partners to prevent reinfection and curtail further transmission. Patients should be instructed to refer their sex partners for evaluation and treatment. Sex partners of patients with N. gonorrhoeae infection whose last sexual contact with the patient was within 60 days before onset of symptoms or diagnosis of infection in the patient should be evaluated and treated for N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis infections. If a patient's last sexual intercourse was >60 days before onset of symptoms or diagnosis, the patient's most recent sex partner should be treated. Patients should be instructed to abstain from sexual intercourse until therapy is completed and until they and their sex partners no longer have symptoms.

For heterosexual patients with gonorrhea whose partners' treatment cannot be ensured or is unlikely, delivery of antibiotic therapy for gonorrhea (as well as for chlamydia) by the patients to their partners can be considered (see Partner Management). Use of this approach (68,71) should always be accompanied by efforts to educate partners about symptoms and to encourage partners to seek clinical evaluation. For male patients informing female partners, educational materials should include information about the importance of seeking medical evaluation for PID (especially if symptomatic). Possible undertreatment of PID in female partners and possible missed opportunities to diagnose other STDs are of concern and have not been evaluated in comparison with patient-delivered therapy and partner referral. This approach should not be considered a routine partner management strategy in MSM because of the high risk for coexisting undiagnosed STDs or HIV infection.

Special Considerations

Allergy, Intolerance, and Adverse Reactions

Reactions to first generation cephalosporins occur in approximately 5%–10% of persons with a history of penicillin allergy and occur less frequently with third-generation cephalosporins (239). In those persons with a history of penicillin allergy, the use of cephalosporins should be contraindicated only in those with a history of a severe reaction to penicillin (e.g., anaphylaxis, Stevens Johnson syndrome, and toxic epidermal necrolysis) (316).

Because data are limited regarding alternative regimens for treating gonorrhea among persons who have severe cephalosporin allergy, providers treating such patients should consult infectious disease specialists. Azithromycin 2 g orally is effective against uncomplicated gonococcal infection, but because of concerns over emerging antimicrobial resistance to macrolides, its use should be limited. Cephalosporin treatment following desensitization is impractical in most clinical settings.


As with other patients, pregnant women infected with N. gonorrhoeae should be treated with a recommended or alternate cephalosporin. Because spectinomycin is not available in the United States, azithromycin 2 g orally can be considered for women who cannot tolerate a cephalosporin. Either azithromycin or amoxicillin is recommended for treatment of presumptive or diagnosed C. trachomatis infection during pregnancy (see Chlamydial Infections).

HIV Infection

Patients who have gonococcal infection and also are infected with HIV should receive the same treatment regimen as those who are HIV negative.

Suspected Cephalosporin Treatment Failure or Resistance

Suspected treatment failure has been reported among persons receiving oral and injectable cephalosporins (300-304). Therefore, clinicians of patients with suspected treatment failure or persons infected with a strain found to demonstrate in vitro resistance should consult an infectious disease specialist, conduct culture and susceptibility testing of relevant clinical specimens, retreat with at least 250 mg of ceftriaxone IM or IV, ensure partner treatment, and report the situation to CDC through state and local public health authorities.

Gonococcal Conjunctivitis

In the only published study of the treatment of gonococcal conjunctivitis among U.S. adults, all 12 study participants responded to a single 1-g IM injection of ceftriaxone (317).

Recommended Regimen

Ceftriaxone 1 g IM in a single dose

Consider lavage of the infected eye with saline solution once. Persons treated for gonococcal conjunctivitis should be treated presumptively for concurrent C. trachomatis infection.

Management of Sex Partners

Patients should be instructed to refer their sex partners for evaluation and treatment (see Gonococcal Infections, Management of Sex Partners).

Disseminated Gonococcal Infection (DGI)

DGI frequently results in petechial or pustular acral skin lesions, asymmetrical arthralgia, tenosynovitis, or septic arthritis. The infection is complicated occasionally by perihepatitis and rarely by endocarditis or meningitis. Some strains of N. gonorrhoeae that cause DGI can cause minimal genital inflammation. No recent studies have been published on the treatment of DGI.


Hospitalization is recommended for initial therapy, especially for patients who might not comply with treatment, for those in whom diagnosis is uncertain, and for those who have purulent synovial effusions or other complications. Examination for clinical evidence of endocarditis and meningitis should be performed. Persons treated for DGI should be treated presumptively for concurrent C. trachomatis infection.

Recommended Regimen

Ceftriaxone 1 g IM or IV every 24 hours

Alternative Regimens

Cefotaxime 1 g IV every 8 hours


Ceftizoxime 1 g IV every 8 hours

All of the preceding regimens should be continued for 24–48 hours after improvement begins, at which time therapy can be switched to cefixime 400 mg orally twice daily to complete at least 1 week of antimicrobial therapy. No treatment failures have been reported with the recommended regimens.

Management of Sex Partners

Gonococcal infection frequently is asymptomatic in sex partners of patients who have DGI. As with uncomplicated gonococcal infections, patients should be instructed to refer their sex partners for evaluation and treatment (see Gonococcal Infection, Management of Sex Partners).

Gonococcal Meningitis and Endocarditis

Recommended Regimen

Ceftriaxone 1–2 g IV every 12 hours

Therapy for meningitis should be continued for 10–14 days; therapy for endocarditis should be continued for at least 4 weeks. Treatment of complicated DGI should be undertaken in consultation with an infectious disease specialist.

Management of Sex Partners

Patients should be instructed to refer their sex partners for evaluation and treatment (see Gonococcal Infection, Management of Sex Partners).

Gonococcal Infections Among Infants

Gonococcal infection among infants usually is caused by exposure to infected cervical exudate at birth. It is usually an acute illness that manifests 2–5 days after birth. The prevalence of infection among infants depends on the prevalence of infection among pregnant women, whether pregnant women are screened for gonorrhea, and whether newborns receive ophthalmia prophylaxis. The most severe manifestations of N. gonorrhoeae infection in newborns are ophthalmia neonatorum and sepsis, which can include arthritis and meningitis. Less severe manifestations include rhinitis, vaginitis, urethritis, and reinfection at sites of fetal monitoring.

Ophthalmia Neonatorum Caused by N. gonorrhoeae

Although N. gonorrhoeae causes ophthalmia neonatorum relatively infrequently in the United States, identifying and treating this infection is especially important because ophthalmia neonatorum can result in perforation of the globe of the eye and blindness.

Diagnostic Considerations

Infants at increased risk for gonococcal ophthalmia are those who do not receive ophthalmia prophylaxis and those whose mothers have had no prenatal care or whose mothers have a history of STDs or substance abuse. Gonococcal ophthalmia is strongly suspected when intracellular gram-negative diplococci are identified in conjunctival exudate, justifying presumptive treatment for gonorrhea after appropriate cultures for N. gonorrhoeae are obtained. Appropriate chlamydial testing should be done simultaneously. Presumptive treatment for N. gonorrhoeae might be indicated for newborns who are at increased risk for gonococcal ophthalmia and who have increased WBCs (but not gonococci) in a Gram-stained smear of conjunctival exudate.

In all cases of neonatal conjunctivitis, conjunctival exudates should be cultured for N. gonorrhoeae and tested for antibiotic susceptibility before a definitive diagnosis is made. A definitive diagnosis is vital because of the public health and social consequences of a diagnosis of gonorrhea. Nongonococcal causes of neonatal ophthalmia include Moraxella catarrhalis and other Neisseria species, organisms that are indistinguishable from N. gonorrhoeae on Gram-stained smear but can be differentiated in the microbiology laboratory.

Recommended Regimen

Ceftriaxone 25–50 mg/kg IV or IM in a single dose, not to exceed 125 mg

Topical antibiotic therapy alone is inadequate and is unnecessary if systemic treatment is administered.

Other Management Considerations

Simultaneous infection with C. trachomatis should be considered when a patient does not improve after treatment. Both mother and infant should be tested for chlamydial infection at the same time that gonorrhea testing is conducted (see Ophthalmia Neonatorum Caused by C. trachomatis). Ceftriaxone should be administered cautiously to hyperbilirubinemic infants, especially those born prematurely.


Infants who have gonococcal ophthalmia should be hospitalized and evaluated for signs of disseminated infection (e.g., sepsis, arthritis, and meningitis). One dose of ceftriaxone is adequate therapy for gonococcal conjunctivitis.

Management of Mothers and Their Sex Partners

The mothers of infants who have gonococcal infection and the mothers' sex partners should be evaluated and treated according to the recommendations for treating gonococcal infections in adults (see Gonococcal Infections in Adolescents and Adults ).

DGI and Gonococcal Scalp Abscesses in Newborns

Sepsis, arthritis, and meningitis (or any combination of these conditions) are rare complications of neonatal gonococcal infection. Localized gonococcal infection of the scalp can result from fetal monitoring through scalp electrodes. Detection of gonococcal infection in neonates who have sepsis, arthritis, meningitis, or scalp abscesses requires cultures of blood, CSF, and joint aspirate on chocolate agar. Specimens obtained from the conjunctiva, vagina, oropharynx, and rectum that are cultured on gonococcal selective medium are useful for identifying the primary site(s) of infection, especially if inflammation is present. Positive Gram-stained smears of exudate, CSF, or joint aspirate provide a presumptive basis for initiating treatment for N. gonorrhoeae. Diagnoses based on Gram-stained smears or presumptive identification of cultures should be confirmed with definitive tests on culture isolates.

Recommended Regimens

Ceftriaxone 25–50 mg/kg/day IV or IM in a single daily dose for 7 days, with a duration of 10–14 days, if meningitis is documented


Cefotaxime 25 mg/kg IV or IM every 12 hours for 7 days, with a duration of 10–14 days, if meningitis is documented

Prophylactic Treatment for Infants Whose Mothers Have Gonococcal Infection

Infants born to mothers who have untreated gonorrhea are at high risk for infection.

Recommended Regimen in the Absence of Signs of Gonococcal Infection

Ceftriaxone 25–50 mg/kg IV or IM, not to exceed 125 mg, in a single dose

Other Management Considerations

Both mother and infant should be tested for chlamydial infection.


Follow-up examination is not required.

Management of Mothers and Their Sex Partners

The mothers of infants who have gonococcal infection and the mothers' sex partners should be evaluated and treated according to the recommendations for treatment of gonococcal infections in adults (see Gonococcal Infections).

Gonococcal Infections Among Children

Sexual abuse is the most frequent cause of gonococcal infection in preadolescent children (see Sexual Assault or Abuse of Children). For preadolescent girls, vaginitis is the most common manifestation of this infection; gonococcal-associated PID after vaginal infection is likely less common in preadolescents than adults. Among sexually abused children, anorectal and pharyngeal infections with N. gonorrhoeae are common and frequently asymptomatic.

Diagnostic Considerations

Because of the legal implications of a diagnosis of N. gonorrhoeae infection in a child, culture remains the preferred method for diagnosis. Gram stains are inadequate for evaluating prepubertal children for gonorrhea and should not be used to diagnose or exlude gonorrhea. NAATs for the detection of N. gonorrhoeae can be used under certain circumstances (see Sexual Assault or Abuse of Children)

Recommended Regimen for Children Who Weigh >45 kg

Treat with one of the regimens recommended for adults (see Gonococcal Infections)

Recommended Regimen for Children Who Weigh ≤45 kg and Who Have Uncomplicated Gonococcal Vulvovaginitis, Cervicitis, Urethritis, Pharyngitis, or Proctitis

Ceftriaxone 125 mg IM in a single dose

Recommended Regimen for Children Who Weigh ≤45 kg and Who Have Bacteremia or Arthritis

Ceftriaxone 50 mg/kg (maximum dose: 1 g) IM or IV in a single dose daily for 7 days

Recommended Regimen for Children Who Weigh >45 kg and Who Have Bacteremia or Arthritis

Ceftriaxone 50 mg/kg IM or IV in a single dose daily for 7 days


Follow-up cultures are unnecessary if ceftriaxone is used.

Other Management Considerations

Only parenteral cephalosporins (i.e., ceftriaxone) are recommended for use in children; cefotaxime is approved for gonococcal ophthalmia only. No data are available regarding the use of oral cefixime to treat gonococcal infections in children.

All children found to have gonococcal infections should be evaluated for coinfection with syphilis and C. trachomatis. (For a discussion of concerns regarding sexual assault, see Sexual Assault or Abuse of Children.)

Ophthalmia Neonatorum Prophylaxis

To prevent gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum, a prophylactic agent should be instilled into the eyes of all newborn infants; this procedure is required by law in most states. All of the recommended prophylactic regimens in this section prevent gonococcal ophthalmia. However, the efficacy of these preparations in preventing chlamydial ophthalmia is less clear, and they do not eliminate nasopharyngeal colonization by C. trachomatis. The diagnosis and treatment of gonococcal and chlamydial infections in pregnant women is the best method for preventing neonatal gonococcal and chlamydial disease. Not all women, however, receive prenatal care, and therefore go untreated. Ocular prophylaxis is warranted for neonates, because it can prevent sight-threatening gonococcal ophthalmia and because it is safe, easy to administer, and inexpensive.

Recommended Regimen

Erythromycin (0.5%) ophthalmic ointment in each eye in a single application

This preparation should be instilled into both eyes of every neonate as soon as possible after delivery. Ideally, ointment should be applied using single-use tubes or ampules rather than multiple-use tubes. If prophylaxis is delayed (i.e., not administered in the delivery room), a monitoring system should be established to ensure that all infants receive prophylaxis. All infants should be administered ocular prophylaxis, regardless of whether they are delivered vaginally or by cesarean section.

Erythromycin is the only antibiotic ointment recommended for use in neonates. Silver nitrate and tetracycline ophthalmic ointment are no longer manufactured in the United States, bacitracin is not effective, and povidone iodine has not been studied adequately. If erythromycin ointment is not available, infants at risk for exposure to N. gonorrhoeae (especially those born to a mother with untreated gonococcal infection or who has received no prenatal care) can be administered ceftriaxone 25-50 mg/kg IV or IM, not to exceed 125 mg in a single dose.


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