Ethnically diverse urban transmission networks of Neisseria gonorrhoeae without evidence of HIV serosorting
Dave J., Paul J., Pasvol TJ., Williams A., Warburton F., Cole K., Miari VF., Stabler R., Eyre DW.
<jats:sec><jats:title>Objective</jats:title><jats:p>We aimed to characterise gonorrhoea transmission patterns in a diverse urban population by linking genomic, epidemiological and antimicrobial susceptibility data.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Methods</jats:title><jats:p><jats:italic>Neisseria gonorrhoeae</jats:italic> isolates from patients attending sexual health clinics at Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK, during an 11-month period underwent whole-genome sequencing and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. We combined laboratory and patient data to investigate the transmission network structure.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Results</jats:title><jats:p>One hundred and fifty-eight isolates from 158 patients were available with associated descriptive data. One hundred and twenty-nine (82%) patients identified as male and 25 (16%) as female; four (3%) records lacked gender information. Self-described ethnicities were: 51 (32%) English/Welsh/Scottish; 33 (21%) white, other; 23 (15%) black British/black African/black, other; 12 (8%) Caribbean; 9 (6%) South Asian; 6 (4%) mixed ethnicity; and 10 (6%) other; data were missing for 14 (9%). Self-reported sexual orientations were 82 (52%) men who have sex with men (MSM); 49 (31%) heterosexual; 2 (1%) bisexual; data were missing for 25 individuals. Twenty-two (14%) patients were HIV positive. Whole-genome sequence data were generated for 151 isolates, which linked 75 (50%) patients to at least one other case. Using sequencing data, we found no evidence of transmission networks related to specific ethnic groups (p=0.64) or of HIV serosorting (p=0.35). Of 82 MSM/bisexual patients with sequencing data, 45 (55%) belonged to clusters of ≥2 cases, compared with 16/44 (36%) heterosexuals with sequencing data (p=0.06).</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Conclusion</jats:title><jats:p>We demonstrate links between 50% of patients in transmission networks using a relatively small sample in a large cosmopolitan city. We found no evidence of HIV serosorting. Our results do not support assortative selectivity as an explanation for differences in gonorrhoea incidence between ethnic groups.</jats:p></jats:sec>