Objectives: To examine whether the rapid increase of gonorrhoea notifications in Victoria, Australia, identified by nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) is supported by similar changes in diagnoses by culture, which has higher specificity, and to determine the proportion of tests positive among women tested.
Design, setting and participants: Retrospective analysis of Medicare reporting of dual NAATs in Victoria, Victorian Department of Health gonorrhoea notifications, and gonorrhoea culture data at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (MSHC), among women, 2008 to 2013.
Main outcome measures: Gonorrhoea notifications and testing methods.
Results: Gonorrhoea cases identified by NAAT increased from 98 to 343 cases over the study period. Notifications by culture alone decreased from 19 to five cases. The proportion of NAATs positive for gonorrhoea in Victoria was low (0.2%–0.3%) and did not change over time (P for trend, 0.66). Similarly, the proportion of women tested at the MSHC for gonorrhoea who tested positive (0.4%–0.6%) did not change over time (P for trend, 0.70). Of untreated women who had a positive NAAT result for gonorrhoea and were referred to the MSHC, 10/25 were confirmed by culture.
Conclusions: The positivity of gonorrhoea in women identified by culture remains stable over time. Using NAAT for gonorrhoea screening in low-prevalence populations will result in many false positives. Positive NAAT results among low-risk women should be regarded as doubtful, and confirmatory cultures should be performed.
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