Abnormal Development - Gonorrhea

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The bacteria neisseria gonorrhea, the cause of gonorrhea.

The variety of bacterial infections that can occur during pregnancy is as variable as the potential developmental effects, from virtually insignificant to major developmental, abortive or fatal in outcome. Some bacteria are common and are part of the normal genital tract flora (Lactobacillus sp), while other bacterial infections are less common or even rare and initially infect/transmit by air or fluids through the different epithelia (genital tract, lungs, gastrointestinal tract). The genitally transmitted common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the bacterial infections described as syphilis and gonorrhoea. (STDs)

Infection in women can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and salpingitis, scarring of the uterine tubes, that in turn can lead to fertility issues or ectopic pregnancy. Pregnant women with severe gonorrhea can transmit the disease to their developing fetus or during delivery.

Bacterial Links: bacterial infection | syphilis | gonorrhea | tuberculosis | listeria | salmonella | TORCH | Environmental | Category:Bacteria

Environmental Links: Introduction | low folic acid | iodine deficiency | Nutrition | Drugs | Australian Drug Categories | USA Drug Categories | thalidomide | herbal drugs | Illegal Drugs | smoking | Fetal Alcohol Syndrome | TORCH | viral infection | bacterial infection | fungal infection | zoonotic infection | toxoplasmosis | Malaria | maternal diabetes | maternal hypertension | maternal hyperthermia | Maternal Inflammation | Maternal Obesity | hypoxia | biological toxins | chemicals | heavy metals | air pollution | radiation | Prenatal Diagnosis | Neonatal Diagnosis | International Classification of Diseases | Fetal Origins Hypothesis

Some Recent Findings

  • Preventing ophthalmia neonatorum[1] "The use of silver nitrate as prophylaxis for neonatal ophthalmia was instituted in the late 1800s to prevent the devastating effects of neonatal ocular infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae. At that time - during the preantibiotic era - many countries made such prophylaxis mandatory by law. Today, neonatal gonococcal ophthalmia is rare in Canada, but ocular prophylaxis for this condition remains mandatory in some provinces/ territories. Silver nitrate drops are no longer available and erythromycin, the only ophthalmic antibiotic eye ointment currently available for use in newborns, is of questionable efficacy. Ocular prophylaxis is not effective in preventing chlamydial conjunctivitis. Applying medication to the eyes of newborns may result in mild eye irritation and has been perceived by some parents as interfering with mother-infant bonding. Physicians caring for newborns should advocate for rescinding mandatory ocular prophylaxis laws. More effective means of preventing ophthalmia neonatorum include screening all pregnant women for gonorrhea and chlamydia infection, and treatment and follow-up of those found to be infected. Mothers who were not screened should be tested at delivery. Infants of mothers with untreated gonococcal infection at delivery should receive ceftriaxone. Infants exposed to chlamydia at delivery should be followed closely for signs of infection."
  • Experimental transmission of Neisseria gonorrhoeae from pregnant rat to fetus.[2] "...This study provides the first experimental model that may mimic the transmission of gonococcal infection from mother to the fetus during pregnancy."
  • Maternal self-reported genital tract infections during pregnancy and the risk of selected birth defects[3] "We conducted a case-control study of 5913 children identified as controls and 12,158 cases with birth defects from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (1997-2004). Maternal interviews provided data on genital tract infections that occurred from one month before pregnancy through the end of the first trimester. Infections were either grouped together as a single overall exposure or were considered as a subgroup that included chlamydia/gonorrhea/pelvic inflammatory disease. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using unconditional logistic regression with adjustment for potential confounders. Genital tract infections were associated with bilateral renal agenesis/hypoplasia (OR, 2.89; 95% CI, 1.11-7.50), cleft lip with or without cleft palate (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.03-2.06), and transverse limb deficiency (OR, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.04-3.26). Chlamydia/gonorrhea/pelvic inflammatory disease was associated with cleft lip only (OR, 2.81; 95% CI, 1.39-5.69). These findings were not statistically significant after adjustment for multiple comparisons. Caution is needed in interpreting these findings due to the possible misclassification of infection, the limited sample size that constrained consideration of the effects of treatment, and the possibility of chance associations. Although these data do not provide strong evidence for an association between genital tract infections and birth defects, additional research on the possible effects of these relatively common infections is needed."
More recent papers  
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Search term: Pregnancy Neisseria Gonorrhea | Congenital Gonorrhea

Older papers  
These papers originally appeared in the Some Recent Findings table, but as that list grew in length have now been shuffled down to this collapsible table.

See also the Discussion Page for other references listed by year and References on this current page.

Neisseria Gonorrhea

Neisseria Gonorrhea, arrowed within a cell (diplococci) and extracellular (pleomorphic) (Image CDC)
  • gram-negative bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • causes the disease Gonorrhea
  • a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Maternal infection increases the risk of premature birth and ophthalmia neonatorum (infantile purulent conjunctivitis).
  • Genes: 2735; Protein coding: 2668; Length: 2,232,025 nt
Links: Genome


  • Bacteria; Proteobacteria; Betaproteobacteria; Neisseriales; Neisseriaceae; Neisseria; Neisseria gonorrhoeae; Neisseria gonorrhoeae NCCP11945

Gram Stain

Bacterial staining procedure named after Hans Christian Gram (1853 - 1938).

Generally divides bacteria into either:

  • Gram-positive bacteria purple crystal violet stain is trapped by layer of peptidoglycan (forms outer layer of the cell).
  • Gram-negative bacteria outer membrane prevents stain from reaching peptidoglycan layer in the periplasm, outer membrane then permeabilized and pink safranin counterstain is trapped by peptidoglycan layer.

Links: Histology Stains | Medical Microbiology - Gram stain procedure

Infection Effects Movie

<html5media height="620" width="620">File:Cell apoptosis 02.mp4</html5media> This movie from an experimental Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection of Hela cells in vitro[4] shows the cells dying by apoptosis in response to the bacterial infection.

Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death that occurs normally in many developmental and adult tissues, but can also occur in response to pathogenic infections.

Hela cells were cultured in glass-bottom dishes and placed under an Olympus spinning disc microscope and phase contrast pictures of the cells were taken every 10 min upon infection.

Apoptosis Links: Hela Apoptosis Movie | MP4 labeled | MP4 unlabeled | Gonorrhea | Bacterial Infection | Apoptosis | Movies

Cell apoptosis icon.jpg
 ‎‎Hela Apoptosis
Page | Play


  1. Moore DL & MacDonald NE. (2015). Preventing ophthalmia neonatorum. Paediatr Child Health , 20, 93-6. PMID: 25838784
  2. Nowicki S, Selvarangan R & Anderson G. (1999). Experimental transmission of Neisseria gonorrhoeae from pregnant rat to fetus. Infect. Immun. , 67, 4974-6. PMID: 10456962
  3. Carter TC, Olney RS, Mitchell AA, Romitti PA, Bell EM & Druschel CM. (2011). Maternal self-reported genital tract infections during pregnancy and the risk of selected birth defects. Birth Defects Res. Part A Clin. Mol. Teratol. , 91, 108-16. PMID: 21319278 DOI.
  4. <pubmed>19300516</pubmed>PLoS Pathog.


Mancuso P. (2000). Dermatologic manifestations of infectious diseases in pregnancy. J Perinat Neonatal Nurs , 14, 17-38; quiz 123-4. PMID: 11249292

Goldenberg RL, Hauth JC & Andrews WW. (2000). Intrauterine infection and preterm delivery. N. Engl. J. Med. , 342, 1500-7. PMID: 10816189 DOI.

Ament LA & Whalen E. (1996). Sexually transmitted diseases in pregnancy: diagnosis, impact, and intervention. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs , 25, 657-66. PMID: 8912216

Ross SM. (1982). Sexually transmitted diseases in pregnancy. Clin Obstet Gynaecol , 9, 565-92. PMID: 6293753


Chesson HW, Gift TL & Pulver AL. (2006). The economic value of reductions in gonorrhea and syphilis incidence in the United States, 1990-2003. Prev Med , 43, 411-5. PMID: 16901533 DOI.

Bernstein KT, Mehta SD, Rompalo AM & Erbelding EJ. (2006). Cost-effectiveness of screening strategies for Gonorrhea among females in private sector care. Obstet Gynecol , 107, 813-21. PMID: 16582117 DOI.

Erdem G & Schleiss MR. (2000). Gonococcal bacteremia in a neonate. Clin Pediatr (Phila) , 39, 43-4. PMID: 10660818 DOI.

Nowicki S, Selvarangan R & Anderson G. (1999). Experimental transmission of Neisseria gonorrhoeae from pregnant rat to fetus. Infect. Immun. , 67, 4974-6. PMID: 10456962

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Search NCBI Bookshelf: Medical Microbiology - Gonorrhea Search

Search PubMed: Congenital Gonorrhea | Abnormal Embryology Gonorrhea | Abnormal Development Gonorrhea | Gonorrhea

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, May 18) Embryology Abnormal Development - Gonorrhea. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Abnormal_Development_-_Gonorrhea

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