Causative organism Neisseria gonorrhoeae
Incubation period 2-10 days for penile urethral infection; occasionally days to weeks. Most cervical, anal and throat infections are asymptomatic
How far to trace back 2 months
Usual testing method Nucleic acid amplification testing and/or culture. Where there is an obvious urethral discharge a NAAT as well as a culture (e.g. using a Charcoal media swab) is recommended to determine antibiotic sensitivities and resistance
Common symptoms

Penile urethral purulent discharge and dysuria. Mucopurulent cervicitis / vaginal discharge, pelvic symptoms if PID (see PID)

Scrotal symptoms if epididymo-orchitis (see Epididymo -orchitis) Proctitis — anorectal pain/bleeding/purulent discharge 

Gonococcal conjunctivitis — usually presents with an obvious purulent discharge and may be unilateral or bilateral.

Likelihood of transmission per act of condomless sex 20% -50% 
Likelihood of long-term sexual partner being infected > 50 %
Protective effect of condoms High
Transmission by oral sex Significant
Duration of potential infectivity Up to 12 months
Important sequelae


Epididymo-orchitis; Disseminated gonococcal infection; Neonatal ophthalmia; Enhanced HIV transmission

Direct benefit of detection and treatment of contacts Cure
Usual management of contacts

Counselling, clinical examination and testing of appropriate sites (urethra, cervix, pharynx, anus)

People presenting as asymptomatic contacts of gonorrhoea should be tested and advised to await results. Consider presumptive treatment if there has been sexual contact within the past 2 weeks or when the person’s individual circumstances mean later treatment may not occur. As most people will test negative, routine presumptive treatment often leads to unnecessary antibiotic use.


Contact tracing priority High
Notification Notifiable by doctors in all Australian states and territories and New Zealand

Page last updated October 2022