Intended for healthcare professionals


Gonorrhoea in inner London: results of a cross sectional study

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 14 June 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1719
  1. Nicola Low, health services research training fellowa,
  2. Gavin Daker-White, researcherb,
  3. David Barlow, consultant physicianb,
  4. Anton L Pozniak, senior lecturer in genitourinary medicinea
  1. a Academic Unit, Department of Genitourinary Medicine, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, The Caldecot Centre, London SE5 9RS
  2. b Department of Genitourinary Medicine, Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Trust, London SE1 7EH
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Low
  • Accepted 19 May 1997


Objectives: To estimate population based incidence rates of gonorrhoea in an inner London area and examine relations with age, ethnic group, and socioeconomic deprivation.

Design: Cross sectional study.

Setting: 11 departments of genitourinary medicine in south and central London.

Subjects: 1978 first episodes of gonorrhoea diagnosed in 1994 and 1995 in residents of 73 electoral wards in the boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham who attended any of the departments of genitourinary medicine.

Main outcome measures: Yearly age, sex, and ethnic group specific rates of gonorrhoea per 100 000 population aged 15-59 years; rate ratios for the effects of age and ethnic group on gonorrhoea rates in women and men before and after adjustment for confounding factors.

Results: Overall incidence rates of gonorrhoea in residents of Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham were 138.3 cases yearly per 100 000 women and 291.9 cases yearly per 100 000 men aged 15-59 years. At all ages gonorrhoea rates were higher in non-white minority ethnic groups. Rate ratios for the effect of age adjusted for ethnic group and underprivilege were 15.2 (95% confidence interval 11.6 to 19.7) for women and 2.0 (1.7 to 2.5) for men aged 15-19 years compared with those over 30. After deprivation score and age were taken into account, women from black minority groups were 10.5 (8.6 to 12.8) times as likely and men 11.0 (9.7 to 12.6) times as likely as white people to experience gonorrhoea.

Conclusions: Gonorrhoea rates in Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham in 1994-5 were six to seven times higher than for England and Wales one year earlier. The presentation of national trends thus hides the disproportionate contribution of ongoing endemic transmission in the study area. Teenage women and young adult men, particularly those from black minority ethnic groups, are the most heavily affected, even when socioeconomic underprivilege is taken into account. There is urgent need for resources for culturally appropriate research and effective intervention to prevent gonococcal infections and their long term sequelae in this population.


    • Accepted 19 May 1997
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