gonorrhoea (congenital)

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  • congenital gonorrhoea infection is acquired intrapartum, and it leads to ophthalmia neonatorum
  • gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum presents with a severe conjunctivitis and keratitis usually in the first 48 hours of life. There may be purulent discharge. If untreated blindness may result. It is frequently bilateral (1)
  • also, there can be disseminated neonatal gonorrhoea infection
  • diagnosis is by Gram stain smear and culture of conjunctival discharge
  • treatment involves both topical (e.g. chloramphenicol eye ointment) and intramuscular benzylpenicillin. In view of increasing antimicrobial resistance, the following alternative options may need to be considered (2):
    • ceftriaxone IV or IM as a single dose OR
    • cefotaxime as a single dose
  • frequent conjunctival irrigation with saline is recommended (2)
  • both parents of the child should also be assessed
  • ocular prophylaxis is no longer routinely administered in the UK, though it is still given in parts of the USA and third world where incidence rates are higher.
  • in cases where the infant is born to those with known gonorrhoea then prophylactic treatment IM benzylpenicillin 30mg/kg stat and chloramphenicol eye ointment is initiated within the first hour after birth


  • chloramphenicol eye drops must not be given to a child less than 2 years old as it contains boron and may impair fertility in the future (3)


Last edited 03/2021 and last reviewed 03/2021