NHS Choices - Causes of gonorrhoea
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. The bacteria are usually found in discharge from the penis and vaginal fluid of infected men and women, and are easily passed from one person to another through sexual contact.
The gonorrhoea bacteria can infect the vagina or penis and other places that come into contact with infected semen or vaginal fluid during sex. It can live inside the cells of the cervix (entrance to the womb), the urethra (tube where urine comes out), the rectum, the throat and, very occasionally, the eyes.
The infection is usually spread through:
- unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
- sharing sex toys that aren't washed or covered with a new condom each time
If you are a woman, it is possible for gonorrhoea to spread from your vaginal secretions to your anus. You do not need to have had anal sex for this to happen.
If you are pregnant, gonorrhoea can be passed from you to your baby during birth. This can lead to your newborn baby having an infection of the eyes (conjunctivitis), which can lead to blindness if not treated.
It isn't clear if gonorrhoea can be spread by transferring the bacteria to another person on the fingers, or by female-to-female genital contact.