GONOCOCCI are assumed to be delicate organisms, but they can survive for at least 24 h in fluid pus at room temperature (Tulloch, 1929), and for 1-2 days in moist smears of pus (Stitt, Clough and Branham, 1948). Cruickshank (1960) and Cruickshank (1975) reported that gonococci can survive for 3 days in pus on linen or other fabric. Elmros (1977) recovered gonococci from glass and towelling after 24 h and Elmros and Larsson (1972) found survival periods of 24 h on a towel and 17 h on glass. Berger and Döring (1969) reported survival on glass beads for 3-4 h and on cotton for 7-8 h. However, these researchers made only a few tests on two materials and satisfactory conclusion cannot be drawn from the results.

It has been recognised for many years that gonococci remain alive in moist pus but die rapidly when dried (Finger, Ghon and Schlagenhaufer, 1894; Neisser and Scholtz, 1903; Marshall, 1914). Jordan and Burrows (1942) and Bigger (1949) pointed out the significance of the inoculum size; gonococci have survived for several weeks dried in thick layers of pus (Bigger, 1949).

Nonveneral gonococcal infection may be acquired from contaminated articles (Shore and Winkelstein, 1971; Doyle, 1972). In the past, epidemics of gonococcal vulvovaginitis in children were a serious problem in children's homes and hospitals (Jordan and Burrows, 1942). Thermometers, enema nozzles, examination gloves, nurses' aprons, towels, bed linen and chamber pots have also been implicated as vehicles for infection (Marshall, 1914; Keogh , 1916; Willcox, 1964; Grimble, 1969; Schofield, 1974; Catterall, 1975; King and Nicol, 1975).

The present study was undertaken to determine the survival periods of gonococci on a variety of materials that might be contaminated by an infected person. The medicolegal and social implications of the results were also considered.


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