Formal name(s) of the test for gonorrhea Neisseria gonorrhea Culture; Neisseria gonorrhea Gram Stain; Neisseria gonorrhea DNA Probe; Neisseria gonorrhea by Amplified Detection.

How The Test Is Used

The three main reasons the test are performed are:

  • Diagnosis – analyze the cause of symptoms
  • Screening – to cover sexually active people
  • Documentation – to document sexual abuse/assault

Because the signs of gonorrhea can resemble chlamydia it is important to be definitive in the diagnosis as the two need different treatment. The two have similar signs so doctors usually test for both simultaneously.

While there are several ways of testing, the favored ways are atomic tests, including NAAT (the nucleic acid amplification test). Because NAATs is so sensitive it is superior to cultures in the detection of N. gonorrhea, also NAAT allows the widest types of tests to be tested including:

  • Endocervical swabs
  • Vaginal Swabs
  • Urethral swabs (men)
  • Urine (from both men and women)

The CDC recommends that victims of sexual assault get testing for both C. trachomatis and N. gonorrhea since they are most commonly transmitted in that situation, and the victim can get treatment if infected. The molecular test should not be used to verify the cases of sexual assault since the legal system only recognizes a positive culture result to show infection of gonorrhea. 

A quick method that can be used in clinics or doctors’ offices is the gram stain that can be used for men; it allows the doctor to look through a microscope at a sample retrieved from the urethra for the presence of the bacteria. It is not reliable for samples from women and while it can diagnose gonorrhea it is not adequate to rule out an infection in asymptomatic men.

When Are Tests Ordered?

A doctor can order a test for gonorrhea if any of the symptoms are present

  • For women – with elevated vaginal discharge, evacuation of urine that causes burning, or bleeding during vaginal intercourse
  • For men - proctitis (swelling and redness of the rectal or anal area), a release from the penis that contains puss like fluid, and difficulty due to burning sensation when he Releases Urine.

Screening Guidelines

Heterosexual males were not recommended for screening.  Doctors may use their judgment though and consider risks such as the prevalence of cases of STD in the area. It is recommended that sexually active gay men get screened once a year. Women with several sexual partners should also be tested regularly.

Increased Risk

People may have a larger risk for gonorrhea:

  • They were positively diagnosed with gonorrhea before
  • If they are positive for other STD especially HIV
  • Having several partners (s)
  • Practicing non-safe sex, not using safe sex items properly or consistently
  • If they perform sex work (prostitution, sex film actor)
  • Reside in a detention facility

It is recommended that pregnant women be tested in the first trimester and repeated again in the third trimester