Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Plasmids are vehicles for horizontal gene transfer between bacteria, and in Neisseria gonorrhoeae plasmids can mediate high-level antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Using genomic and phylogenetic analyses, we show that plasmids are widespread in a collection of 3724 gonococcal isolates from 56 countries, and characterized the conjugative, β-lactamase and cryptic plasmids. We found that variants of the conjugative plasmid (which can mediate tetracycline resistance) and the β-lactamase plasmid expressing TEM-135 are associated with distinct gonococcal lineages. Furthermore, AMR plasmids are significantly more prevalent in gonococci from less wealthy countries, highlighting the need for further studies. More than 94% of gonococci possess the cryptic plasmid, with its absence correlated with the presence of a novel chromosomal type IV secretion system. Our results reveal the extent of plasmid-mediated AMR in the gonococcus, particularly in less wealthy countries, where diagnostic and therapeutic options can be limited, and highlight the risk of their global spread.

Original publication




Journal article


J Infect Dis

Publication Date



Neisseria gonorrhoeae , antimicrobial resistance, plasmids, whole-genome sequencing