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Gonococcus

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Gonococcus
Gonococcus (plural is gonococci) is also known as Neisseria gonococcus or Neisseria gonorrhoea. It is an obligate, gram negative, pathogenic, coccus bacterium that causes sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in humans. The gonococci bacteria are roughly spherical or are bean shaped in nature and exist usually in pair (diplococci). There are about eleven (11) species of Neisseria that could inhabit humans, of which only about two (2) species are pathogenic and the others are non-pathogenic. The two human pathogenic species of Neiseeria are;
  • Neisseria gonorrhoea, and
  • Neisseria meningitidis.
While some of the non pathogenic Neisseria species are;
  • Neisseria pharyngitidis,
  • Neisseria flavo,
  • Neisseria sicca,
  • Neisseria perflava, etc.
Neisseria gonococcus was first isolated and described by a scientist called Albert Neisser in 1897.

Structure

Neisseria gonorrhoea is a gram negative single celled bacterium that is roughly spherical in shape. This spherical shape assumes that of a bean. It is surrounded by an outer membrane which is composed of proteins, phospholipids and lipopolysaccharide. The gonococcus bacterium is unique to an extent where it has highly branched basal oligosaccharide structure, which are referred to as lipooligosaccharide (LOS). During the processes of growth, the bacterium cell releases its outer membrane fragments called ‘blebs’It is believed that, these blebs contains LOS and that they may play a role in pathogenesis if they are distributed during the process of infection.

It is also believed that, the bacterium can adhere or attach itself to a host cell surface using a structure called fimbrae, and that it can also move or locomote across surfaces twitchingly through certain locomotory structures called pili. The gonococcus bacterium cell is believed to be surrounded externally by a capsule or sheath which may be very resistant to adverse conditions and may play a role in drug resistance.

However, there is an argument that gonococci does not contain capsule that only meningococci does. But presently, there is an increased prevalence of drug resistant gonococci infections which some believed have so do with a drug resistant capsule or sheath.

Transmission

Gonococcus bacterium is transmitted from an infected person to another through any form of unprotected sexual intercourse. Individuals having multiple sex partners, unprotected pareunia, high risk partners, etc are at greater risk of contracting and/ or spreading this pathogenic bacterium. However, parallel transmission of the gonococci bacteria is also possible, i.e. from an infected mother to her child during childbirth causing ophthalmia neonatorum.

Diseases 

Neisseria gonococcus causes several types of diseases or infections of the genitals, throat and eyes, of which the most common and most important is gonorrhoea (also known as ‘The Clap’), which is a venereal disease. Infections due to gonococci are the second most common bacterial disease in the world.

It has been reported that, the presentation of signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea varies from one person to another and this is also dependent on the site of infection. It was also reported that about 10% of gonorrhoea infected males and about 80% of infected females do not present any form of signs and symptoms or clinical manifestation of gonorrhoea. This in fact therefore increases the risk of contracting and/ or transmitting this pathogenic bacterium from one person to another. Neisseria meningitidis causes pyrogenic meningitis. Some other disease conditions caused by gonococci bacteria are;
  • Cervicitis,
  • Ophthalmia neonatorum,
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID),
  • Gonococcal arthritis,
  • Tenosynovitis,
  • Pustules in the skin,
  • Endocarditis,
  • Urethritis or proctitis,
  • Prostatitis,
  • Epididymitis,
  • Meningitis,
  • Pharyngitis,
  • Orchitis,

Treatments

Gonococcus infection is treatable and curable. It is usually treated with antibiotics such as ceftriaxone which is normally administered with either azithromycin or doxycycline. Normally, the symptoms should subside about a day after treatment.

There is an increasing prevalence of a new strain of Neisseria gonorrhoea which is resistant to the azithromycin component. Therefore, consult your doctor for the best course of treatment.

Always ensure to attend a follow-up appointment about two weeks after treatment is completed for another test to be carried out to confirm that you are clear of this pathogenic bacterium. It is recommended that your partner(s) be tested and treated equally. Avoid having intercourse until you've been cleared of the gonococci infection. It is important to note that; re-infection of gonococcus is extremely possible due to Neisseria gonococcus’ ability to evade the immune system by varying its surface proteins.

Prevention

Neisseria gonococcus infestation or infection can be prevented by:
  1. Abstinence, abstaining totally or completely from any form of pareunia activities is the best and safest way to preventing gonorrhoeal infection.
  2. Use of protection properly and consistently will help to reduce and/ or prevent gonorrhoeal infection.
  3. Maintaining a single partner who is not infected is one of the safest prevention method of gonorrhoeal infection. Each time you have a new partner, you are exposed and you put your partner(s) at risk.
  4. If you and/ or your partner(s) are/ is experiencing an unusual symptoms, get tested. And if already infected, avoid (stop) coition until treatment is complete for you and your partner(s).
  5. Have your partner(s) tested, always endeavour to find out whether your partner(s) has been tested for STIs, basically gonorrhoea. If not, ask if he/ she would be willing to get tested and encourage such person(s) to go for Screening before having sex.
This pathogenic bacterial infection can cause such complications as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, infertility in women, sterility in men, and blindness in newborn babies. Other complications of gonorrhoea infection include ectopic pregnancy, pre-term labour, arthritis, endometritis, Epididymitis, miscarriage, etc. so prevent against it.

See a Doctor

Is there any remote possibility that you may have contracted gonococcus, or are you having some of the Signs and/ or symptoms of gonococci infections? then it is time to see a doctor. Are you having lower abdominal pain? Feeling pain or burning sensation during urination? Are you having Odorous discharge? Are you experiencing tiredness? Are you experiencing bleeding during or after intercourse? Are you experiencing an unusually heavy menstrual flow? Are you feeling, intense itching and irritation around your genitals or feeling this general body weakness for reasons you cannot possibly explain. Make an appointment with your doctor get yourself checked, tested and treated. It is time to get well and enjoy a happy, healthy and satisfying sex again.


More Readings


Childbirth


Gonorrhoea

Reproduction


Mending a failing heart...!

Complications of gonorrhoea


Maternal morbidity and it's causes


Signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea


Risk factors of gonorrhoeal infection 


Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)


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