10 things you didn’t know about this STD: Mycoplasma Genitalium

Mycoplasma Genitalium is a common STI (sexually transmitted infection). It can be transmitted by different forms of sexual contact including vaginal, anal and oral intercourse. The symptoms experienced can include painful urination, penile/vaginal discharge, and, specifically in women; pain during sex, bleeding after sex, inter-menstrual bleeding, and lower pelvic pains.

Mycoplasma Genitalium is not as well known as Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea. The key reason for this, is the difficulty in testing for the infection and also a lack of awareness about the condition.


Here are 10 interesting things that you didn’t know about Mycoplasma Genitalium

1. Mycoplasma Genitalium was first identified in the 1980s

The bacteria was first isolated in the urogenital tract of humans in 1981, and was recognised as a new species of Mycoplasma in 1983. As it is still relatively recent that Mycoplasma Genitalium was identified, there is lack of sufficient data and research, and perhaps more of the condition that we do not yet know about.


2. Mycoplasma Genitalium is one of the smallest free living microorganisms capable of self-replication

The Mycoplasma species are the smallest bacterial cells yet discovered, with sizes ranging from 0.2 to 0.7 micrometres. In fact, Mycoplasma Genitalium is too small to be visible under a light microscope, and the first detailed study of its structure was conducted under a transmission electron microscope (TEM). 

3. Mycoplasma Genitalium is one out of the 15 (known so far) named Mycoplasma species of the human origin

Hundreds of Mycoplasma species are known to infect animals and plants. Of these, about 15 are pathogenic in humans. Mycoplasma Genitalium was the 12th to be identified.

4. Mycoplasma Genitalium is more common than Gonorrhoea and is the second most prevalent STI after Chlamydia

Since its discovery around 30 years ago, Mycoplasma Genitalium is now recognized as an important cause of male urethritis. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that it is more common than Gonorrhoea but less common than Chlamydia, and is responsible for approximately 15%–20% of non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU), 20%–25% of non-chlamydial NGU, and approximately 30% of persistent or recurrent urethritis.

5. It is possible to have Mycoplasma Genitalium and not know it, and there is a high chance that your partner is also infected

Infection with Mycoplasma Genitalium can cause the symptoms as mentioned earlier, but can also be asymptomatic. Studies have shown that in heterosexual couples where the male partner was tested positive, up to 30% of the female partners were positive for the bacteria. If the female was first tested positive, up to 50% of their male partners tested positive as well. In men who have sex with men, up to 40% of their partners tested positive for the bacteria in the rectum. This points to the fact that if a person is tested positive for the bacteria there is a good chance that their partner is also infected.

6. Mycoplasma Genitalium, like Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, can lead to more serious complications with long term health consequences

Data suggests that Mycoplasma Genitalium can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in females, as the bacteria is found in the cervix and/or endometrium of women with PID more often than in women without PID. Women with tubal factor infertility are more likely to have antibodies to Mycoplasma Genitalium than fertile women, suggesting that this organism might cause female infertility. Two studies have shown that infection with Mycoplasma Genitalium is associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery in pregnant women.

It remains unknown whether Mycoplasma Genitalium can cause male infertility. However, the organism has been detected in men with epididymitis in a limited number of cases.

7. Mycoplasma Genitalium is a slow growing bacteria; this leads to diagnostic challenges

Mycoplasma Genitalium is a fastidious, slow-growing organism. This makes detection and subsequent isolation of the bacteria extremely difficult. Culture can take up to 6 months, and only a few laboratories in the world are able to recover clinical isolates.

Therefore, the preferred method of testing is by Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), typically using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). NAAT detects genetic materials (DNA or RNA) rather than antigens or antibodies, and is highly accurate. Testing can be done on urine, urethral, vaginal, and cervical swabs and endometrial biopsy. However, to date there is no diagnostic test for Mycoplasma Genitalium that has been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

8. Mycoplasma Genitalium does not have a cell wall

The Mycoplasma Genitalium bacteria lacks a cell wall, which makes treatment of the infection more difficult as certain classes of antibiotics that work by targeting bacterial cell walls are ineffective against this organism.

9. You can get reinfected with Mycoplasma Genitalium even after you have been treated for it 

Much like many other STIs, it is possible to get reinfected with Mycoplasma Genitalium even after one has been successfully treated for it. Therefore, safe sexual practices including using barrier protection, reducing your number of sexual partners and knowing your partners’ infection status is important in keeping yourself safe and healthy.

10. It is possible for vertical transmission of Mycoplasma Genitalium to occur?

Although uncommon, it is possible for vertical transmission of Mycoplasma Genitalium from mother to baby to occur, as previously reported in one case. 

Next read: MYCOPLASMA GENITALIUM (MG) – STD SCREENING, TESTING & TREATMENT


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