Gonorrhoea cases rise across Europe

30 April 2019

Article: 53/1703

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reports that following a decline in notification rates in 2016, the number of gonorrhoea cases has gone up by 17% across the reporting EU/EEA countries, with more than 89,000 confirmed diagnoses in 2017, which is more than 240 cases a day.

The 2017 increase follows the overall trend over the last decade, during which 20 of the 28 EU/EEA countries consistently reporting an increase in the number of notified gonorrhoea cases.

Since 2008, France and Portugal experienced a six-fold increase, while Denmark and Ireland now record more than three times as many confirmed cases. It is believed some of the reported increases are the result of improved national surveillance systems and use of more sensitive tests.

After a small drop in 2016, gonorrhoea notifications rose again in the majority of the 27 reporting countries in 2017. Some countries noted striking year-on-year increases of more than 40%, such as Finland and Sweden.

Earlier this year, results from ECDC’s sentinel European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme showed a persistent level of resistance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to azithromycin, which compromises the recommended dual therapy with ceftriaxone.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for almost half of gonorrhoea cases (47%) in 2017. The rise in notified cases among women between 2016 and 2017 (from 9.5 to 11 per 100,000 population) is concerning, as untreated gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or cause infertility.

Rates of reported gonorrhoea infection vary considerably across Europe, from below one to 75 cases per 100,000 of the population, with higher rates reported in northern Europe. While this variation could be linked to real differences in incidence of gonococcal infection, they are likely influenced by different testing policies and methods, healthcare systems and access to services, as well as reporting and surveillance system structures.

With 558,155 confirmed cases between 2008 and 2017, gonorrhoea is the second most notified sexually transmitted infection in the EU/EEA after Chlamydia, of which 3,826,299 cases were reported during the same time period.

Source: ECDC, 25 April 2019