Development of a novel human oral tissue model of gonorrhoea infection to screen for new treatments for oral gonorrhoea

Project Details

Oral Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG)  infections are common, affecting 2 to 5% of population. Oropharyngeal infections are important because (1) cure rates at the oral site are up to 20% lower than at the genital site; (2) play a major role in transmission in the population through oral sex and use of saliva and (3) they are more likely to facilitate the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). NG has now developed resistance to all classes of antibiotics recommended for gonorrhoea treatment and in 2017, the WHO declared AMR NG as an urgent global threat.

New treatments for NG are scarce and among emerging treatments, all currently have efficacies below the USA CDC efficacy criteria of 95% for treating infections in the oropharynx. Therefore there is an urgent need to find new treatments for oral NG.

We have developed the world's first in-vitro model of NG infection/colonization in the human oropharynx. Through this model, we will screen for new treatments for oral NG. This is a collaboration between the University of Melbourne (Melbourne Dental School and Melbourne School of Population and Global Health) and the World Health Organisation. Please see the 3 min YouTube video for more information.


Project Lead:
Dr Fabian Kong

Current investigators:
A/Prof Antonio Celentano
Rita Paolini
Caroline Moore
Prof Magnus Unemo, World Health Organisation
Prof Jane Hocking

Current collaborators:
Wintermute Biomedical Pty Ltd
University of QLD - Institute for Molecular Biosciences
University of WA - Marshall Centre for Infectious Diseases


ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub to combat Antimicrobial Resistance  (AMR Hub).
(Project ID IH190100021)

** PhD position and information available here
NOTE: For international students please note English proficiency requirements for Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences here
i.e. IELTS scores: Overall & writing at least  7.0; Listen/reading/speaking at least 6.0. This must be within the last 2 years.

Research Opportunities

This research project is available to PhD students, Post Doctor Researchers to join as part of their thesis.
Please contact the Research Group Leader to discuss your options.

Research Outcomes

Kong FYS, Unemo M, Lim SH et al. Optimisation of treatments for oral Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection: Pharmacokinetics Study (STI-PK project) – study protocol for non-randomised clinical trial, BMJ Open 2022, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2022-064782

Kong FYS, Hocking JS. Treating pharyngeal gonorrhoea continues to remain a challenge. Lancet Infectious Diseases 2022, doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(21)00649-6

Kong FYS, Hatzis CL, Lau et al. Treatment efficacy for pharyngeal Neisseria gonorrhoeae: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2020. doi:10.1093/jac/dkaa300

Kong FYS, Hocking JS, Fairley CF et al. Is there a future for the ongoing use of azithromycin for the treatment of Neisseria gonorrhoeae? Clinical Microbiology and Infection 2020. doi:10.1016/j.cmi.2019.10.015

Kong FYS, Horner P, Unemo M et al. Pharmacokinetic considerations regarding the treatment of bacterial sexually transmitted infections with azithromycin: a review. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2019. doi: 10.1093/jac/dky548

Unemo M, Kong FYS. Doxycycline-PEP - novel and promising but needs monitoring. Nat Rev Urol 2023. doi: 10.1038/s41585-023-00788-1.

Kong FYS, Kenyon C, Unemo M. Important considerations regarding the widespread use of doxycycline chemoprophylaxis against sexually transmitted infections. J Antimicrob Chemother 2023. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkad129.

Research Group

Sexual Health

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Screening and early detection of disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

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