Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG) is a type of bacteria that can be sexually transmitted: what it is and why you should be concerned.
- Women tend to experience vaginal itching, burning on urination, pain during intercourse & etc.
- Men, on the other hand, may experience urethral discharge, burning on urination, pain or swelling of the testicles & etc.
Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG): What It Is & Why You Should Be Concerned.
What is Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG)?
You may have heard of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like Chlamydia or Syphilis or the feared HIV. But Mycoplasma genitalium (M.gen) may be unfamiliar to most of you, even if you are fairly conscientious in looking after your own sexual health. This is partly because of difficulty in testing for the infection. Up until recently; testing for M.gen was not available in Singapore.
Furthermore, a good proportion of people infected with M.gen may feel completely fine but are still able to spread the infection. So if you’ve done a full STI screen and think you are completely safe because it came back clear, think again- there might just be something else you need to be concerned about.
Mycoplasma genitalium is a tiny, slow-growing bacterium which was first identified in the 1980s. Testing for M.gen has traditionally been very difficult because of the nature of the bacteria. The M.gen bacterium also does not have a cell wall, which means certain classes of antibiotics which are commonly used are unfortunately ineffective against the bacteria. This, coupled with recent increasing antibiotic resistance, makes treatment of M.gen potentially challenging as well.
It is only in more recent years that it is now being recognised as a significant and increasingly more common STI which can cause symptoms in both males and females with potentially more serious consequences.
To put things in perspective as to exactly how prevalent M.gen is, the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) data indicates that it is more common than Gonorrhea, coming in a close second to Chlamydia.
How is Mycoplasma Genitalium Transmitted?
Mycoplasma genitalium infects the cells in the genital and urinary tracts and can be transmitted through sexual contact including vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse and oral intercourse.
What are the symptoms of Mycoplasma Genitalium?
M.gen can affect both males and females. Both males and females may often be asymptomatic/feel completely well, but can continue to spread the infection to their sexual partners. M.gen is thus a silent but dangerous STI.
In males who do develop symptoms, it can cause urethritis, which manifests dysuria (painful or uncomfortable urination), which may be associated with penile discharge. These symptoms are non-specific and similar to urethritis caused by other STDs like Chlamydia. As of now, M.gen is not yet well linked to more serious symptoms like pain or swelling of the testicles or epididymis (a gland near the testicles), but it is important to remember that data on M.gen is still lacking right now. Learn more about STD Risk From Receptive Anal Sex in Men
In females, it can cause cervicitis, inflammation of the cervix, resulting in abnormal vaginal discharge, painful intercourse, or bleeding after intercourse (post-coital bleeding) or spotting when one is not having one’s menses (intermenstrual bleeding). If the infection spreads to deeper organs like the uterus and fallopian tubes or ovaries, a condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) with potentially devastating long-term complications like infertility, one may also experience pelvic pain.
Anal intercourse can result in M.gen in the rectum and anal canal, but this is generally asymptomatic in another word, does not display symptoms.
Can Mycoplasma Genitalium cause serious infections?
M.gen may very well be one of the next major STIs that the world needs to worry about. While there is a paucity of existing data, emerging research links M.gen to more serious infections with long term health consequences.
There is data to suggest that M.gen can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in females- the bacterium was detected in women suffering from PID more frequently. Women with tubal factor infertility (infertility due to scarring of the fallopian tubes) were also found to have antibodies to M.gen, suggesting the bacterium could again be responsible or linked to increased risk of infertility. Learn more about Women’s Fertility Screening
Some studies have also shown that in pregnant women, M.gen is associated with increased risk of pre-term delivery.
It is still uncertain as to whether M.gen can cause infertility in males, but it is important to note that there have been cases where M.gen was detected in men with epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis).
All in all, we currently still lack robust data about M.gen and the consequences of infection, but overall data does suggest that there may be more to worry about than previously thought.
How is Mycoplasma Genitalium diagnosed?
M.gen was classically known to be notoriously difficult to diagnose because of difficulty in getting the bacterium to grow in laboratory conditions. Testing is done by nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT) and is not as widely available as testing for other more well-known STIs is.
Until recently, testing for M.gen was not available in Singapore. But you will be glad to know that at DTAP clinic, we now offer testing for M.genitalium.
For males, testing is done using a urine sample. A high vaginal or endocervical swab is performed in females.
If you are a male who is troubled by persistent or recurrent symptoms of urethritis despite antibiotic treatment, and your urine STI screen is persistently “clear” of infection, this is a diagnostic test you should consider.
M.gen is an established cause of urethritis in males. If you may have potentially been exposed to M.gen from a sexual partner, you may also wish to consider getting tested, particularly in light of the above potential complications.
Diagnosis of M.gen is particularly important because of potential antibiotic resistance amongst various M.gen strains. This means that treatment of M.gen may not be so straightforward.
Can Mycoplasma genitalium infection be treated?
M.gen is inherently resistant to some classes of antibiotics and there are concerns about increasing antibiotic resistance. It is therefore important that you are treated properly with the correct antibiotic and for an appropriate duration – this makes testing and treatment more crucial than ever.
As always, safe sexual practices including using barrier protection, reducing your number of sexual partners and knowing your partners’ infection status remains crucial in keeping yourself safe and healthy.