Photo of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which causes gonorrhea

Credit: NIAID

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can infect both men and women. Caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium, gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. Although treatable, drug-resistant forms of gonorrhea are increasing.

Why Is the Study of Gonorrhea a Priority for NIAID?

If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and increased risk of HIV infection. Gonorrhea can also be passed from mother to child and cause blindness or life-threatening infections in the infant.

How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?

NIAID supports a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program of research on Neissesria gonorrhoeae (gonococci).

To learn about risk factors for gonorrhea and current prevention and treatment strategies visit the MedlinePlus gonorrhea site

Biology & Genetics

Scientists have determined the complete genetic code, or sequence (genetic blueprint), of the N. gonorrhoeae genome. They are using this information to help us better understand how the bacterium causes disease and becomes resistant to antibiotics.


NIAID also supports research to develop topical microbicides (antimicrobial preparations that can be appled inside the vagina) to prevent gonococcal infections.

Multidrug-Resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Gonorrhea)

Another important area of gonorrhea research concerns antibiotic (drug) resistance. This is particularly important because strains of N. gonorhoeae that are resistant to recommended antibiotic treatments have been increasing and are becoming widespread in the United States. These events add urgency to conduct research on and develop new antibiotics and to prevent antibiotic resistance from spreading.

Content last reviewed on July 27, 2015