'Stealth' STI Mycoplasma genitalium risks becoming a superbug

Desiree Burns
July 11, 2018

The Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG) bacterium now only affects 1-2 percent of the public, but BASHH warned in a new set of guidelines it could become a superbug in 15 years' time if proper testing and treatment fails to be provided by local health services.

There is also concern the STI may grow resistant to antibiotics if not treated correctly.

"The greatest effect of this is for the women who present with pelvic inflammatory disease caused by MG, which would be very hard to treat, putting them at increased risk of infertility".

Its draft guidelines detail how best to spot and treat MG.

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

In men, it causes watery discharge from the penis and painful urination.

The news comes after health officials a year ago 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. "So people need to take precautions".

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Tests for MG have recently been developed but are not available in all clinics yet although doctors can send samples to Public Health England's laboratory to get a diagnostic result.

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.

BASHH recommends that MG is treated with a seven-day course of the antibiotic, doxycycline, followed by a course of azithromycin.

"This is not curing the infection and is causing antimicrobial resistance in MG patients", Paddy Horner, a consultant senior lecturer in sexual health at Bristol University and one of the authors of the new guidelines, told the BBC.

"It's yet another good reason to pack the condoms for the summer holidays - and actually use them".

"It's about time the public learned about Mycoplasma genitalium", Greenhouse said.

"Everyone can protect themselves from STIs by consistently and correctly using condoms with new and casual partners".

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