Gonorrhoea : Swiss AIDS Federation


Gonorrhoea, colloquially known as the clap, is one of the most widespread sexually transmitted infections worldwide. It is caused by bacteria (Neisseria gonorrhoeae, also known as gonococcus).

How is gonorrhoea transmitted?

Gonorrhoea is transmitted through oral, vaginal or anal intercourse. The pathogen (gonococcus) resides on the mucous membranes (not in semen or vaginal fluid).

It can also be transmitted from mother to child during delivery.

What are possible symptoms and consequences?

The infection is often asymptomatic – its effects on vagina, anus or throat often go unnoticed. An infestation of the male urethra, on the other hand, is almost always symptomatic as well as painful.


  • Purulent penile or anal discharge
  • Pain of the glans
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Anal itching and irritation
  • Sore throat, redness and irritation of mouth and throat


  • Purulent vaginal or anal discharge
  • Pain of the vagina
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Anal itching and irritation
  • Sore throat, redness and irritation of mouth and throat
  • Irregular bleeding outside of menstruation

Left untreated, the infection may affect the prostate and epididymis (part of the testicle).

Among women it can lead to a pelvic infection and complications during pregnancy.

The infection can lead to infertility in both sexes.

How is gonorrhoea tested for?

Testing for an infection involves analysis of a mucosal swab.

How is gonorrhoea treated?

The infection can usually be cured with antibiotics. If symptoms persist despite treatment, a doctor should be informed, as this could be the sign that the bacteria have mutated in a way to make the antibiotics ineffective (resistance development).

Should sexual partners get treatment as well?

The person concerned should consider, together with her or his doctor, where the infection came from and whom it might already have been passed on to. Those sexual partners should be informed about the diagnosis, so they can get a medical exam and, if necessary, treatment.

Current sexual partners need to be treated simultaneously to avoid a “ping-pong effect”, whereby partners repeatedly re-infect each other. An additional benefit is the fact that condom use can be dispensed with during simultaneous treatment.

How can the (re-)infection be prevented?

Condoms reduce the risk of getting infected with gonorrhoea. But an infection is possible despite condom use. It is important to detect and treat an infection early.

If you have changing or multiple sexual partners during the same time period, talk to your doctor or another specialist about sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and get advice on whether tests may be necessary.

In case of an infection, www.lovelife.ch provides tips on how to inform your partner.

Source: Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) 2022, lovelife.ch

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