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Neisseria gonorrhoeae molecular typing for understanding sexual networks and antimicrobial resistance transmission: a systematic review
Katy Town et al
Katy Town (MSc)a,b, Hikaru Bolt (MSc)c, Sara Croxford (MSc)c, Michelle Cole (DBMS)d, Simon Harris (PhD)e, Nigel Field (MBPhD)b and Gwenda Hughes (PhD)a,c
Objectives Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) is a significant global public health concern due to rising diagnoses rates and antimicrobial resistance. Molecular combined with epidemiological data have been used to understand the distribution and spread of NG, as well as relationships between cases in sexual networks, but the public health value gained from these studies is unclear. We conducted a systematic review to examine how molecular epidemiological studies have informed understanding of sexual networks and NG transmission, and subsequent public health interventions. Methods Five research databases were systematically searched up to 31st March 2017 for studies that used sequence-based DNA typing methods, including whole genome sequencing, and linked molecular data to patient-level epidemiological data. Data were extracted and summarised to identify common themes. Results Of the 49 studies included, 82% used NG Multi-antigen Sequence Typing. Gender and sexual orientation were commonly used to characterise sexual networks that were inferred using molecular clusters; clusters predominantly of one patient group often contained a small number of isolates from other patient groups. Suggested public health applications included using these data to target interventions at specific populations, confirm outbreaks, and inform partner management, but these were mainly untested. Conclusions Combining molecular and epidemiological data has provided insight into sexual mixing patterns, and dissemination of NG, but few studies have applied these findings to design or evaluate public health interventions. Future studies should focus on the application of molecular epidemiology in public health practice to provide evidence for how to prevent and control NG.