A lesser-known sexually transmitted disease, that has lately grabbed more attention, may actually be rather common, according to new research.

Research shows that mycoplasma genitalium infects more than 1% of people aging 16 to 44 in the UK. That makes around 250,000 affected people. Research conducted in the U.S. has found that a similar percentage of people there have been infected with mycoplasma genitalium virus. That makes mycoplasma genitalium a relatively more common STD than gonorrhea, according to the study conducted by the CDC.

A person can contract mycoplasma genitalium by having sex with an infected individual. Even if you do not go ‘all the way’ with vaginal intercourse, you can still contract mycoplasma genitalium through sexual rubbing or touching. Scientists discovered mycoplasma genitalium not very long ago, in the 80s, yet a recent study indicated that more than 1 in 100 adults may have this STD.

Is mycoplasma genitalium a new STD?

Mycoplasma genitalium has been described as a relatively ‘new’ STD, but the bacteria was first discovered in the 80s. At that time, scientists did not have the right types of tests that allowed them to study mycoplasma genitalium properly. The connection between mycoplasma genitalium and sexual activity was established much later, in the mid-90s. Early research indicated that people who tested positive for mycoplasma genitalium often had sexual partners who were already infected with the disease too.

Later, studies added to the fact that mycoplasma genitalium is a sexually transmitted disease, because the infection was a lot more common in people who had a minimum of four new sexual partners in the past year compared to people who where monogamous. Moreover the studies showed that people are more likely to contract mycoplasma genitalium if they have had unprotected sex. No infections were found in those who never had sex.

Mycoplasma genitalium symptoms

An infection with mycoplasma genitalium does not always produce symptoms, so it is very much possible to have it without knowing about it.

Symptoms in men

Some of the common symptoms that men experience are:

  • Stinging, burning, or pain while urinating
  • Watery discharge from the penis
  • Pain during ejaculation or during sex
  • Feeling to urinate a lot frequently

Symptoms in women

The symptoms women experience are:

  • Pain during sex
  • Discharge from the vagina
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain in the pelvic area

If a woman is experiencing symptoms, the symptoms are likely to be similar to those of chlamydia: fever, discharge, pain in the pelvic and heavy bleeding between periods.

Getting diagnosed for mycoplasma genitalium

Unlike other STDs, there is no particular test for mycoplasma genitalium that is FDA approved. However, if you or your physician thinks that you may have contracted it, you can opt for a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT).

For this particular test, you may have to give a urine sample. The urine sample for the diagnosis of mycoplasma genitalium must include the first-void urine (the first part of the urine stream). In this part of the urine mycoplasma genitalium is best visible. This make the clinical detection of mycoplasma genitalium a lot more accurate. Your physician may also use a swab to take a sample from your cervix, vagina, or urethra, the tube that carries the urine out of the body.

Health issues mycoplasma genitalium may cause

Mycoplasma genitalium can lead to a number of different health complications.

  • Mycoplasma genitalium can make the urethra itchy, swollen, and irritated – this condition is known as urethritis. It can affect both men and women.
  • It may infect the reproductive system in women, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • An inflamed cervix, known as cervicitis.

Is mycoplasma genitalium treatable?

Yes, mycoplasma genitalium can be cured with antibiotics. The infection is best treated by a course of antibiotics. However, there are concerns that the infection is reportedly developing resistance against antibiotics.

For this reason, doctors believe that more people need to be aware of the infection because of the impact it has on the reproductive system and fertility in both men and women. New guidelines are to be implemented. By not properly addressing the issue despite warnings from experts, there are young people out there contracting the infection on a daily basis.

Treatment for mycoplasma genitalium

Mycoplasma genitalium infection can be quite tricky to treat. Some of the more common antibiotics such as penicillin can help kill infections by damaging the bacteria’s cell walls. But, the fact of the matter is, mycoplasma genitalium bacteria does not have cell walls. So, this type of medication does not work well here.

Your physician may try prescribing azithromycin first. If azithromycin does not work, you he might prescribe moxifloxacin.

After a month, you need to take another test to ensure the infection has gone, but it is not a great idea to keep repeating the tests if you do not have any symptoms of mycoplasma genitalium. However, if you still show symptoms after a month, you will need to get further treatment.

Your physician may also focus on treating several other conditions that mycoplasma genitalium can cause such as cervicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease or urethritis.

Make sure your partner(s) talks to your doctor about being screened and treated so that they do not infect others or give it back to you. You can contract mycoplasma genitalium again after being treated.

What issues may arise after you have contracted mycoplasma genitalium?

STI testing has become a lot more advanced, and this has made doctors realize the mycoplasma genitalium is a lot more common than they thought. Beyond that, they are also making connections between mycoplasma genitalium and other common STDs. Some evidence shows that there is a relationship between mycoplasma genitalium and cervicitis, which is the inflammation of the cervix, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is a bacterial infection the upper female reproductive organs.

PID generally develops when a person has an untreated STD, mainly gonorrhea or chlamydia that affects the reproductive system, eventually leading to infertility. It can cause the fallopian tubes to be infected; making it worse, the eggs cannot be transported to the ovaries.

The mycoplasma genitalium bacteria is found in the endometrial tissue or cervix of women with PID more often than in women without PID. Overall evidence indicates that mycoplasma genitalium can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. More research is required to determine whether mycoplasma genitalium actually causes PID, or if it is an opportunistic co-infection.

Should you be frequently screened for mycoplasma genitalium?

The FDA has not yet approved a specific test for mycoplasma genitalium, and doctors do not frequently test for the infection. Nevertheless, doctors may consider screening for mycoplasma genitalium in patients who have persistent symptoms after treatment for other STDs that can show similar symptoms.

More research is still required to better understand how common mycoplasma genitalium is among people in the United States, and whether routine screening for the infection may be warranted or not.

How to prevent mycoplasma genitalium?

The use of condoms can greatly reduce your chance of contracting mycoplasma genitalium. A condom provides great protection against mycoplasma genitalium infections because the bacteria is present in penile or vaginal discharge. Ensure to use good quality condoms only. If you already have contracted the infection, avoid having sex for the next 7 days after you have started the treatment so to not infect your partner(s).

What if mycoplasma genitalium goes untreated?

If left untreated, mycoplasma genitalium can lead to serious complications in both men and women. It can weaken an individual’s immune system to a great extent that the person may become more susceptible to other common infections and diseases. Mycoplasma genitalium also increases the susceptibility to chlamydia, which may lead to ectopic pregnancies. It also increases the risk of infertility during active infections. Lastly, there is a change that the internal organs also get infected.

Is mycoplasma genitalium becoming the next superbug?

U.K health officials warn that mycoplasma genitalium could become antibiotic resistant in the next few years. Misdiagnosis and the treatment with wrong antibiotics could lead to the infection becoming a ‘Superbug’. Mycoplasma genitalium generally goes undetected because the symptoms are quite similar to gonorrhea and chlamydia. Mycoplasma genitalium is also less talked about in comparison to diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea.