What is gonococcemia and how is it defined?

Updated: Jun 15, 2021
  • Author: Shahab Qureshi, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
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Gonococcemia is defined as the presence of N gonorrhoeae in the bloodstream, which can lead to the development of disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). Gonococcemia occurs in about 0.5-3% of patients with gonorrhea.

This patient presented with gonococcal urethritis, This patient presented with gonococcal urethritis, which became systemically disseminated, leading to gonococcal conjunctivitis of the right eye. Courtesy of the CDC/Joe Miller, VD.

The clinical manifestations of this process are biphasic, with an early bacteremic phase consisting of tenosynovitis, arthralgias, [2] and dermatitis, followed by a localized phase consisting of localized septic arthritis. Other potentially severe clinical complications include osteomyelitis, meningitis, endocarditis, adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), [3, 4] and fatal septic shock. [5] Polymyositis is also a rare complication of gonococcemia. (See Pathophysiology, Prognosis, and Presentation.)

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