Emerging sex disease 'could become next superbug'

Desiree Burns
July 11, 2018

Thousands of women could become infertile every year thanks to an increasingly risky sexually-transmitted infection spread by people having unsafe sex on holiday.

Paddy Horner, of BASHH, said last night: "MG has the potential to become a superbug within a decade, resistant to standard antibiotics".

The bacteria is called Mycoplasma genitalium (MG), and it causes similar symptoms to chlamydia, such as painful urination.

In women, it can cause inflammation of the reproductive organs (womb and fallopian tubes) too, causing pain and possibly a fever and some bleeding.

The news comes after health officials past year warned that millions of young people are shunning protection because risky sex has become acceptable once again, three decades after the Aids epidemic made condom use essential.

The guidelines note people can be tested for MG through a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), but a BASHH survey of 125 out of 152 public health commissioners in England found only one in 10 plan to fund the testing for MG in the next financial year.

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This common mistake has meant the bug has been quietly getting stronger and more prevalent - and because it has been treated with the wrong drugs is now very resistant to any antibiotic. Macrolide resistance in United Kingdom is estimated at about 40%, say the guidelines.

The most recent figures from Public Health England show that diagnoses of syphilis are at their highest level for almost 70 years, with 7,137 cases in 2017, a 20 per cent rise on the previous year, and more than twice that recorded in 2012.

Dr Peter Greenhouse, a sexual consultant in Bristol and BASHH member, urged people to take precautions.

Almost half of 16 to 24-year-olds admit they have had sex with a new partner without using a condom, a Public Health England report said in December.

"Resources are urgently needed to ensure that diagnostic and antimicrobial resistance testing is available for women with the condition who are at high risk of infertility".

Dr Helen Fifer, consultant microbiologist at Public Health England, welcomed the guidelines, adding: "If you have symptoms of an STI, we recommend you get tested at your local sexual health clinic".

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