Identification of N. gonorrhoeae and Related Species


The genus Neisseria contains a number of species which are normal flora and pathogens of humans and animals. Of these species, the species of human origin–and particularly the pathogenic species, N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis–have been studied extensively in an effort to control the infections they cause.

Gonorrhea, caused by N. gonorrhoeae, is one of the most frequently reported infectious diseases in the United States and worldwide. Rapid tests have been developed to identify and distinguish N. gonorrhoeae, from the commensal Neisseria and related species which are normal flora of the oro- and nasopharynx. Because many rapid tests for the identification of N. gonorrhoeae test for a limited number of characteristics which may be shared by one or more nonpathogenic Neisseria spp., a non-gonococcal, commensal Neisseria species may be incorrectly identified as N. gonorrhoeae. Such incorrect identifications may result in serious social and medicolegal consequences for patients and their families. Thus, the primary purpose of these pages is to provide information relating to the accurate identification of N. gonorrhoeae.

Descriptions of species in these pages will, for the moment, be limited to those of human origin. Information relating to the identification species of animal origin will include a table of differential characteristics which should be consulted when a gram negative diplococcus is not readily identifiable as a human Neisseria species e.g., an isolate from a wound inflicted by an animal bite.

In addition, reference information on the taxonomy, host range, pathogenicity, natural habitat and prevalence of the Neisseria species is included.