Thousands of Brits could have mycoplasma infection STI

mycoplasma infection Just when you thought you probably knew about all the different sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in circulation, a new one turns up and is now striking fear amongst health experts that there could be thousands of people living with the disease in the UK – and unaware of it.

Well, despite being commonly reported as a “new” type of infection…Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) – as the STI is being referred as – was first discovered back in the 1980s.

The infection stems from a bacterium located within the urinary and genital tracts of humans. Affecting around 1% of people aged 16 to 44 years old, it does not produce many symptoms – practically none for those already infected – but research has shown it can be passed through unprotected sexual intercourse.

Researchers assessed data extracted from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, and determined that unsurprisingly, those with a higher number of sexual partners, people failing to use condoms, those living in deprived areas and people in the 25 to 44 age range are most at risk.

Findings reported in the International Journal of Epidemiology demonstrated that 1% of 16 to 44-year-olds in Britain who have had sex are living with MG. The report involved a cross-sectional study analysing the link between sexual activity and MG.

Researchers looked at the urine samples of 4500 people (both men and women) between 16 and 44 years old that had stated previously having sex at some point, in addition to the samples of about 200 people who reported never having had sex.

No cases of the mycoplasma infection were discovered in the people who had never had sex, whilst the infection was found in approximately 1% of the sexually active participants.

The mycoplasma infection was prevalent in 1.2% of men and 1.3% of women. The prevalence peaked at 2.1% in men aged between 25 and 34, while in women, the peak prevalence occurred in 16 to 19 year olds (2.4%) and then decreased with age.

MG seems to more prevalent in those that have had over 4 sexual partners in the preceding 12 months, whilst MG-positive men were found to be likely to have reported a previously diagnosed gonorrhoea, syphilis, or non-specific urethritis, while women reported previous cases of trichomoniasis. Researchers also noted that incidence of MG was higher in those living in the most deprived areas and black men.

The majority of those who came back positive for MG did not report having any noticeable symptoms but a high proportion of women with symptoms, said they were bleeding after sex. Other known symptoms were genital discharge, testicular and pelvic pain, with scientists believing that more long-term ramifications could include pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and female infertility.

Nigel Field, consultant clinical epidemiologist at Public Health England (PHE), and one of the researchers behind the new study, said it had found further evidence that MG is an STI.

“MG is a bacterium that was present in around 1% of the general population aged 16 to 44 years, who had reported at least one sexual partner,” he said.

“The study adds to the accumulating evidence-base that MG causes infection in some men and women, and the study found that women with MG were more likely to report bleeding after sexual activity.

“However, over 90% of men and more than half of women with MG had no symptoms. It may be that MG does not cause illness in all individuals in whom the infection is detected.

“Laboratory testing for MG is not yet widely available in the UK.”

He added that there would need to be more research into the “clinical consequences of MG infection” prior to any work being carried out on screening or preventative methods for the infection.

“PHE has recently established national surveillance to monitor diagnoses of MG from any clinics undertaking testing and will continue to gather public health data on MG to inform policy on infection control,” he said.

“As for all STIs, prevention measures promoting increased condom use and a reduction in sexual risk behaviours are likely to play an important role in efforts to control MG.”

Mycoplasma genitalium is just one of numerous STIs in circulation and until treatment is developed, Medical Specialists® Pharmacy provide treatments for many of the more common STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital herpes.

In addition, Medical Specialists® can provide almost 100% accurate pregnancy tests to be used in the privacy and comfort of your own home, a wide variety of condoms to suit different preferences, emergency hormonal contraception (morning after pill), other contraceptive pills, and even a chlamydia test you can take at home and post off for a quick analysis and result, saving you the time and embarrassment of having to personally attend a clinic for a check-up.

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