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Gonorrhea Test

Gonorrhea tests involve testing a sample of body fluid or urine to see if gonorrhea bacteria (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) are present and may be the cause of an infection. These tests are used to screen for or confirm a gonorrhea infection.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is usually spread during sexual contact. It does not always cause symptoms.

Several types of tests can be used to detect a gonorrhea infection. Most tests use a sample of body fluid from the affected area.

  • Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). NAATs detect and make many copies of the genetic material (DNA) of gonorrhea bacteria. NAATs include polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) and transcription mediated amplification (TMA). These tests are very accurate and can be done either on a urine specimen or a sample of body fluid from the potentially infected area.
  • Nucleic acid hybridization test (DNA probe test, molecular probe test). Molecular probe testing detects genetic material (DNA) of gonorrhea bacteria. This test is done on the body fluid collected from the potentially infected area, most often the cervix or urethra. Samples collected from the throat do not always provide accurate test results. Often the molecular probe test for gonorrhea also tests for chlamydia, another STI with symptoms similar to those caused by gonorrhea.
  • Gonorrhea culture. A gonorrhea culture is done on a sample of body fluid collected from the potentially infected area, such as the cervix, urethra, eye, rectum, or throat. The sample is combined with substances that promote the growth of gonorrhea bacteria. Unlike other gonorrhea tests, a culture can determine if gonorrhea bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics.
  • Gram stain. A Gram stain test is done on a sample of fluid from the penis or, less commonly, the cervix. The fluid is spread on a microscope slide and stained with a dye that can help identify gonorrhea bacteria. A Gram stain is less reliable than a culture or molecular probe test for detecting gonorrhea, but it produces faster results. Gram stain testing done on a sample from the cervix is not very accurate.
  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, EIA). EIA testing is done on a sample of fluid from the penis or cervix. An EIA test detects substances that trigger the immune system to fight the gonorrhea infection (gonorrhea antigens). An EIA test is less accurate for detecting gonorrhea than a gonorrhea culture.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 26, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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