Neisseria gonorrhoeae vs. Neisseria meningitidis

Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis are Gram-negative diplococci (kidney bean-shaped) with flattened sides.  They are characteristically found inside polymorphonuclear leucocytes. These are non-sporing, non-motile, and oxidase positive. They have exacting growth requirements and do not grow on ordinary media. Growth occurs on media enriched with blood or serum like Chocolate Agar, Thayer Martin Agar, and Modified New York City Medium.

The major structural difference between N. meningitidis (meningococci) and N. gonorrhoeae (gonococci) is the presence of a capsule. Meningococci have a thick polysaccharide capsule, whereas gonococci do not. In the laboratory, the differentiation between Neisseria meningitidis and N. gonorrhoeae is made based on sugar fermentation: meningococci ferment maltose whereas gonococci do not. 

Some of the notable differences between them are:

Characteristics Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Gonococci)Neisseria meningitidis (Meningococci)
CapsuleNo polysaccharide capsuleYes (has a prominent polysaccharide capsule and is divided into 13 serologic groups based on capsular antigens)
PiliYes (one of the most important virulence factors; nonpiliated strains are avirulent)Yes
Portal of EntryGenitalRespiratory
DiseaseMale: urethritis, proctitis
Female: endocervicitis, PID (contiguous spread), arthritis, proctitis
Infants: ophthalmia neonatorum Otitis media Sinusitis Bronchitis and bronchopneumonia in elderly patients with COPD
 Meningitis and meningococcemia
Glucose FermentationYesYes
Maltose FermentationNoYes
β-Lactamase ProductionCommonRare (Penicillin G is the treatment of choice for meningococcal infection)
Vaccine availableNoYes (conjugate vaccine and unconjugated vaccine are available)


  1. Forbes, S., Sahm, D. F., & Weissfeld, A. S. (2002). Bailey & Scott’s Diagnostic Microbiology. Mosby.
  2. Tinsley, C. R., & Nassif, X. (1996). Analysis of the genetic differences between Neisseria meningitidis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae: two closely related bacteria expressing two different pathogenicities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 93(20), 11109–11114. 
  3. Edwards, J., Quinn, D., Rowbottom, K. A., Whittingham, J. L., Thomson, M. J., & Moir, J. W. (2012). Neisseria meningitidis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae are differently adapted in the regulation of denitrification: single nucleotide polymorphisms that enable species-specific tuning of the aerobic-anaerobic switch. The Biochemical journal, 445(1), 69–79.

Acharya Tankeshwar

Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion. As an asst. professor, I am teaching microbiology and immunology to medical and nursing students at PAHS, Nepal. I have been working as a microbiologist at Patan hospital for more than 10 years.

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