Volume 101, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



The “Top End” of Australia is presently experiencing a gonorrhea epidemic. Gonococcal infection is usually limited to mucosal tissues but can lead to disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI), joint destruction, and severe sepsis. This study aimed to explore the epidemiology, presentation, management, and health-care impact of DGI in the Top End of the Northern Territory. Health records of patients diagnosed with proven, probable, or possible DGI between January 2010 and September 2018 were analyzed retrospectively. One hundred six cases of DGI were identified. Ninety-four patients (88.7%) were Indigenous Australian. The incidence of proven and probable DGI in the Indigenous population was 27.1 per 100,000 person-years, compared with 7.1 in the Top End population overall. Of 7,540 laboratory-proven gonococcal notifications, 1.3% ( = 97) were complicated by DGI. The highest incidence was in the 15–19-year age-group. Thirteen cases (12.3%) occurred in patients younger than 15 years. High rates of comorbid alcohol misuse, diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatic fever, and complement deficiency were observed. The “classic triad” of tenosynovitis, dermatitis, and polyarthralgia was rare. Ninety-four patients (88.7%) presented with purulent arthritis. Disseminated gonococcal infection was estimated to cause at least 10.0% of nonpenetrating septic arthritis in the Top End and 1,234 days of hospitalization during the study period. DGI is an important cause of morbidity in the Top End, particularly in the young, remote Indigenous Australian population. Clinical presentation varies from classical teaching. Urgent action in the health and community sector is required, particularly for at-risk populations, to prevent further debilitating and costly complications of gonococcal infection.


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  • Received : 15 Apr 2019
  • Accepted : 19 Jun 2019
  • Published online : 06 Aug 2019

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