- Scientists are concerned about Mycoplasma genitalium, a poorly understood STD that is linked to infertility.
- Maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr Irene Stafford said STD was a “real concern”.
- Most people have no symptoms, but it can cause pain when peeing in both men and women.
Mycoplasma genitalium, a poorly understood sexually transmitted disease linked to infertility, could be spreading silently amid a lack of testing and research, scientists warn.
Health officials don’t track the STD, so it could spread undetected and potentially cause harm, experts say.
Dr. Irene Stafford, associate professor of maternal-fetal medicine at UTHealth Houston’s McGovern Medical School, said Tuesday during the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) STD Prevention Conference that Mycoplasma genitalium infections they were a “genuine concern”.
“Why aren’t we looking at this?” Stafford said, per NBC News.
Mycoplasma genitalium has been around since 1981, but FDA-approved tests only became available in 2019, and people aren’t routinely screened for it, according to the CDC. This means we don’t know how bad it is, who it affects the most, or the long-term consequences of an infection.
Lisa Manhart, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, estimated that up to 20 percent of sexually active women and 17 percent of sexually active men between the ages of 15 and 24 may be infected with Mycoplasma genitalium, according to NBC News. .
By comparison, chlamydia is the most common STD in the United States, and 5 percent of sexually active women between the ages of 14 and 24 are infected with it, according to NBC News.
Mycoplasma genitalium can cause painful urination
Mycoplasma genitalium does not cause symptoms in most people, but some experience symptoms 2 to 35 days after becoming infected.
In men, Mycoplasma genitalium can cause inflammation of the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the penis, causing a watery discharge from the penis or pain when urinating.
In women, Mycoplasma genitalium can cause: inflammation of the cervix—the opening to the uterus—which can cause: unusual vaginal discharge, discomfort when urinating, and bleeding between periods, often after sex.
The infection can then spread to the fallopian tubes that connect the ovaries and uterus, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) of PID. PID causes symptoms such as: fever, lower abdominal pain, and pain during intercourse.
If left untreated in women, PID can lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes, which increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
The choice of antibiotics to treat Mycoplasma genitalium currently depends on the strain. Mycoplasma genitalium is resistant to at least one antibiotic commonly used for STDs, called azithromycin.
Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, UK, told DailyMail.com that it was “entirely possible” that Mycoplasma genitalium could become resistant to all existing antibiotics, although this would likely was “some distance away.”
Clarke said its “silent spread” was a problem, as people don’t know how to get tested and then pass it on.
We don’t know the long-term effects of an infection
More research is needed to understand the long-term risks of Mycoplasma genitalium, including those without symptoms, experts told NBC News.
According to NBC News, Stafford wanted to raise public awareness about Mycoplasma genitalium in an attempt to increase research efforts.
“The implications of untreated Mycoplasma genitalium on fertility and sexual health are real,” he said.