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Gonorrhea Test

British Columbia Specific Information

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. Gonorrhea is passed from one person to another by contact with body fluids containing the bacteria during unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal sex. For more information about gonorrhea, see HealthLinkBC File #08a Gonorrhea, or visit Smart Sex Resource and Options for Sexual Health.

If you have concerns about an STI or want additional information, speak with your health care provider, or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1. You can call 8-1-1 and speak to a registered nurse anonymously anytime, every day of the year.

Test Overview

Gonorrhea tests tell if a person has this disease. They look for the bacterium, or germ, that causes gonorrhea. Testing is done on body fluid or urine samples.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection. That means it is spread through sexual contact. It does not always cause symptoms.

Tests used to find a gonorrhea infection include:

    • Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). NAATs find the genetic material (DNA) of gonorrhea germs. These tests are very accurate. They can be done on urine samples or samples of body fluid from the area where the infection is suspected.
    • Gonorrhea culture. This is a test to find the bacteria that cause a gonorrhea infection. A sample of body fluid from areas such as the cervix, urethra, eye, rectum, or throat is added to a substance that promotes the growth of the bacteria. If no bacteria grow, the culture is negative. If bacteria that can cause gonorrhea grow, the culture is positive. Sometimes other tests are done to find the right medicine for treating the infection. This is called sensitivity testing.
    • Gram stain. A Gram stain test is done on a sample of fluid from the penis or, less commonly, the cervix. The fluid is spread on a microscope slide and stained with a dye that can help identify gonorrhea bacteria. A Gram stain is less reliable than a culture or molecular probe test for detecting gonorrhea, but it produces faster results. Gram stain testing done on a sample from the cervix is not very accurate.

If a gonorrhea infection is suspected, don't have sex until the test results have come back. If the test shows that you have gonorrhea, don't have sex for at least 3 days after you finish treatment.footnote 1 Your sex partner or partners must also be treated for gonorrhea to avoid passing the infection back to you or to others.

If you have gonorrhea, all of your sex partners from the last 60 days should be tested and treated.footnote 1 And you may need to have tests for other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

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Why It Is Done

Tests for gonorrhea are done to:

  • See if a gonorrhea infection may be causing your symptoms. These may include pain when you urinate, anal itching or bleeding, vaginal bleeding after intercourse, or abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina.
  • Screen people who are at high risk for a gonorrhea infection.
  • Retest people several months after they have been treated for gonorrhea.
  • Check for infection in your newborn if you had gonorrhea at the time of delivery.

Learn more

How To Prepare

Do not urinate for at least 2 hours before a urine sample is collected.

If you think you may have gonorrhea, don't have sex until you get your test results. And you may want to have tests for other STIs, such as HIV.

How It Is Done

Direct sample

For this method of testing, a sample of body fluid is taken from the area where gonorrhea is suspected. This may include the cervix, vagina, rectum, throat, or eyes. Your doctor may use a swab to collect the sample. Or you may be given instructions on how to collect your own sample.

Urine test

If you have a urine test, do not wipe the genital area clean before you urinate. Collect the first part of your urine stream, just as you begin to urinate.

How long the test takes

The test will take a few minutes.

How It Feels

Collecting a sample of fluid from the vagina, rectum, throat, or eyes may cause mild discomfort or pain.

Collecting a sample from the cervix may cause mild discomfort. It may feel similar to a Pap test or pelvic examination.

Collecting a urine sample does not normally cause any discomfort.

Risks

There is very little risk of serious problems from having a sample of fluid collected from the cervix, the vagina, the rectum, the eyes, or the throat. There may be a small amount of bleeding from the vagina if a sample is collected from the cervix.

There are no risks linked with collecting a urine sample.

Results

Gonorrhea test

Normal:

No signs of gonorrhea bacteria are found. If a culture is done, no gonorrhea bacteria grow in the culture. More testing for other sexually transmitted infections may be needed to find the cause of any symptoms.

Abnormal:

Signs of gonorrhea bacteria are found. If a culture is done, gonorrhea bacteria grow in the culture.

References

Citations

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada (2006, updated 2010). Gonoccoccal infections. In Canadian Guidelines on Sexually Transmitted Infections. Available online: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/std-mts/sti-its/guide-lignesdir-eng.php.

Credits

Adaptation Date: 4/28/2022

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC