Scientists have discovered yet more evidence to suggest that Mycoplasma genitalium bacterium, also known as MG, is the latest sexually transmitted infection (STI) that should be on everyone's radar. The news comes following a study of 4,500 UK participants and backs up previous research conducted across the globe.
As a sexual health specialist and lead doctor for Your Sexual Health, Dr Rashid Bani believes both patients and doctors alike need to educate themselves about the STI.
"Medical experts have been aware of MG since the 80s, but not all of them are aware that it's sexually transmitted and may lead to disease," he said. "We all need to learn more about the condition, whilst patients should be taking the necessary procedures to practise safe sex as always."
So what do you need to know about Mycoplasma genitalium (MG)?
What is MG?
Mycoplasma genitalium bacterium is a sexually transmitted infection that infects the mucous membranes of the urethra, cervix, throat or anus. Symptoms are not common, but the bacteria can lead to a number of long-term health complications. For men, this can include urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) with can result in burning pain when urinating or discharge from the penis. In women, MG may cause inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis) as well as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID, an infection of the female reproductive organs, can lead to pain in the lower abdomen and pain or bleeding during sex. In severe cases, PID can lead to infertility and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy in women.
Who is at risk?
The research suggests that people who have had multiple sexual partners in the previous year are at most risk, whilst unprotected sex boosted the likelihood of contracting the infection even further. As with all STIs you contract the disease through sexual contact with an infected individual.
How can you prevent infection?
The best form of prevention against MG is through practising safe sex. This includes using a condom whenever you have sex with someone unless you know for certain that they don't have any STIs. This includes using a condom for oral sex and anal sex.
What are the symptoms?
In similar fashion to other STIs, including chlamydia, there are often no symptoms. However, symptoms that are sometimes exhibited include genital irritation, inflammation, discharge, odour or pain. Women may also exhibit irregular vaginal bleeding or bleeding after sex.
How do I know if I've got the infection?
The only way to know for sure if you have the condition is by being tested for MG. Many doctors are still unaware that the bacterium is linked specifically to sexual activity and for this reason it might be necessary to enquire about the specific test if you are concerned that you have contracted an STI, such as MG. If you have had unprotected sex with multiple partners you should get tested to ensure that you are not infected.
The test for MG is performed on a urine sample.
Is there a treatment?
MG is effectively treated using oral antibiotics, usually azithromycin. A test of cure one month after treatment is needed to make sure that the antibiotics have worked. Very occasionally a second course of antibiotics is required.
The study tested urine from 4,507 sexually active participants aged between 16 and 44 years for MG.
It revealed that as many of 1.2 % of all males and 1.3 % of females had the infection. For both men and women the presence of MG was strongly associated with reporting sexual risk behaviours (increasing number of total and new partners, and unsafe sex, in the previous year). Women with MG were more likely to report bleeding after sex. However, the majority of men (94.4%), and over half of women (56.2%) with MG did not report any STI symptoms. Men with MG were more likely to report previously diagnosed gonorrhoea, syphilis or non-specific urethritis, and women previous trichomoniasis.
This study strengthens evidence that MG is an STI. MG was identified in over 1% of the population aged 16-44. There were strong associations with risky sexual behaviours similar to those in other known STIs and no infections were detected in those reporting no previous sexual experience. Among men it is most prevalent in those aged 25-34.
Although most infections were asymptomatic (no symptoms), a strong association with post-coital bleeding in women was found. So, in addition to MG being an STI, it can be a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
The latest research into the condition was conducted by University College London with the findings published in the International Journal of Epidemiology (November, 2015).
Please note this is a sponsored article which has been published in association with Your Sexual Health.