A lesser-known sexually transmitted disease that has lately grabbed more attention may actually be rather common, according to new research.
The research showed that Mycoplasma genitalium (Mgen), which is considered to be sexually transmitted disease, infects more than 1% of people aging 16 to 44 in the UK. That makes around 250,000 people, as per the UK census data. Research conducted in the U.S. has found that a similar percentage of people there have been infected with Mgen virus. That makes Mgen a relatively more common STD than gonorrhea, according to the study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mgen is a type of bacteria that can lead to sexually transmitted Infections. A person can contract it by having sex with someone who is already infected with it. Even if you do not go ‘all the way’ with vaginal intercourse, you can still contract Mgen through sexual rubbing or touching. Scientists discovered this bacterium since the 1980s, 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 were first discovered in the 80s era. At that time, scientists did not have the right types of tests that would allow them to study Mgen more. Hence, the connection between Mgen and sexual activity showed a little late, which was around the mid-90s. The early research indicated that people who tested positive for Mgen often had sexual partners who were already infected with the disease too.
Later, studies added to the fact that Mgen is a Sexually Transmitted Disease because it found that the infection was a lot more common in people who had a minimum of four new sexual partners in the past year than in those who had one or fewer sexual partners in the past year. Moreover, 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
Mycoplasma genitalium does not always show any symptoms, so it is very much possible to have it without even 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, they are more 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 Sexually Transmitted Diseases, there is no particular test for Mycoplasma genitalium that the FDA has approved to-date. 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 Mgen must include the first-void urine (the first part of the urine stream), as this part of urine comprise of more DNA particles than others, which helps make the clinical detection of Mgen a lot more sensitive. 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.
- This STI 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). This condition makes it hard for a woman to conceive.
- An inflamed cervix, known as cervicitis
Scientists are still not sure if the Mycoplasma genitalium infection makes it hard for men to get a woman pregnant.
Is Mycoplasma Genitalium treatable?
Yes, Mgen 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 the common 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
Mgen infection can be quite tricky to treat. Some of the common antibiotics such as penicillin can help kill the infection by damaging the bacteria’s cell walls. But, the fact of the matter is, Mgen bacteria do not have cell walls. So, this medication does not work well here.
Your physician may try azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) drug first. If it does not work, you may be prescribed with moxifloxacin (Avelox).
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 more treatment.
Your physician may also focus on treating several other conditions that Mgen can cause such as cervicitis, PID, 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 still contract Mgen again even if you have already had a treatment for it.
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 it and other common STDs. Some evidence shows that there is a relationship between Mgen and cervicitis, which is the inflammation of the cervix or even the PID.
PID generally occurs 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.
Mgen bacteria are generally found in the endometrial tissue or cervix of women with PID more often than in women without PID, as per CDC. Overall evidence indicates that Mgen can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. However, more research is required to determine whether Mgen actually causes PID, or if it comes up as a co-infection without really bringing it about. Unfortunately, there is not much science and research around these aspects to-date.
Should you be frequently screened for Mgen?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved a specific test for Mgen, 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 is Mycoplasma genitalium among people in the United States, and whether routine screening for the infection may be warranted or not.
How to prevent Mgen?
Use of condoms can greatly reduce your chance of contracting Mycoplasma genitalium. A condom provides great protection against Mgen infections, as the bacteria are 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 at least after you have started the treatment so that you do not infect your partner(s).
What if Mycoplasma Genitalium goes untreated?
If left untreated, the Mgen STD can lead to serious complications for 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. Mgen may elicit co-infection with Chlamydia, which as a result 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 STI could become antibiotic resistant in the next few years. Misdiagnosis and treatment of the condition could lead the infection becoming a ‘Superbug’. Mgen generally goes undetected by the symptoms are quite similar to gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
Mycoplasma genitalium is becoming antibiotic resistant, as it has been misdiagnosed as Chlamydia and incorrect treatment is making it more resistant to prescribed medication. Mgen is not much talked about than other more popular sexually transmitted infections, like Chlamydia.