Neisseria meningitidis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae are pathogenic bacteria that can cause human infections. While N. meningitidis infections are associated with bacterial meningitis and bacteremia, a strain of N. meningitidis, isolated from the urogenital system, has recently been associated with urethritis. As this strain is becoming prominent as an emerging pathogen, it is essential to assess identification tools for N. meningitidis and N. gonorrhoeae urogenital isolates. Consecutive N. meningitidis isolates recovered from urogenital cultures of symptomatic patients with presumptive diagnoses of gonorrhea and a random selection of N. gonorrhoeae isolates recovered from the same population within the same time frame were characterized with routine identification systems, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, and whole-genome sequencing. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS), multilocus sequence typing, 16S rRNA gene sequence, and average nucleotide identity methods accurately identified 95% (18/19) of N. meningitidis and N. gonorrhoeae isolates. With the Aptima Combo 2 CT/NG test, 30% (3/10) of N. meningitidis isolates were misidentified as N. gonorrhoeae, but no misidentifications were found with the Xpert CT/NG nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Phylogenetic core genome and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based grouping analyses showed that urogenital N. meningitidis isolates were highly related and phylogenetically distinct from N. gonorrhoeae and respiratory N. meningitidis isolates but similar to urogenital N. meningitidis isolates from patients with urethritis in the United States. Urogenital N. meningitidis isolates were predominantly azithromycin resistant, while N. gonorrhoeae isolates were azithromycin susceptible. These data indicate that urogenital isolates of N. meningitidis can cause false-positive detections with N. gonorrhoeae diagnostic assays. Misidentification of urogenital N. meningitidis isolates may confound public health-related activities for gonorrhea, and future studies are needed to understand the impact on clinical outcome of N. meningitidis urogenital infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01699-20
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Neisseria
  • Urethritis
  • Whole-genome sequencing


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