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written by Helen J Knox
(this site owner)
What is Mycoplasma genitalium?
Mycoplasma genitalium is the smallest known parasitic bacteria, first recognised as MG in 1980. It is a member of Mycoplasma family of bacteria, of which there are approximately 14 strains or sub-types.
Mycoplasma hominis and Ureaplasma species, are known collectively as the genital mycoplasmal organisms.
The sexually related strains of MG:
- mycoplasma hominis
— associated with BV (see BV), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), pyelonephritis (kidney inflammation) and fever after giving birth;
- ureaplasma urealyticum
— mainly associated with urethritis (see NGU);
- mycoplasma pneumoniae— associated with pneumonia (lung disease) and passed through prolonged or intimate contact with an infected person.
Mycoplasma, first named in 1889 when it was thought to be a fungus, is also called Mycoplasma genitalium contagiousum.
The word breaks down as:
- myco – fungus;
- plasma – formed;
- genitalium – genital or of the genitals;
- contagiosum – contagious / infectious
and can spread from person to person.
In other words: contagious genital fungal infection, which is now known to be bacterial, not fungal in origin.
How is Mycoplasma genitalium passed on?
Mycoplasma genitalium is a sexually acquired infection that affects the urethra, cervix, throat and anus.
It is thought to be implicated in up to 20% of cases of NGU.
What might I notice if I have Mycoplasma genitalium?
MEN with MG may notice:
- pain passing urine;
- discharge from the penis.
WOMEN with MG may notice one or more of the following:
- lower abdominal pain;
- pain during sex;
- pain after sex;
- increased vaginal discharge;
- vaginal itch;
- bleeding between periods;
- discomfort passing urine.
Additionally, it should be ruled out in people with pneumonia, chronic fatigue and arthritis (see SARA).
What tests are there to check if I’ve got Mycoplasma genitalium?
Urine samples are taken if there is urethritis (inflammation of the urethra/urine passage) and swabs are taken of any discharge or inflamed area.
See the section called ‘Tests Used in Sexual Health Settings’.
Can mycoplasma genitalium be cured?
Yes. Mycoplasma genitalium is a bacterial infection, which can be successfully cured with antibiotics.
What complications can happen if Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) is not treated?
MEN with untreated MG may experience:
- urethritis (inflammation of the urine passage), not caused by chlamydia or gonorrhoea.
WOMEN with untreated MG may experience:
- PID (pelvic inflammatory disease);
- cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix, which produces excess vaginal discharge);
- endometritis (inflammation of the endometrium or lining of the uterus);
- salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes with subsequent tubal infertility);
- urethritis (inflammation of the urine passage);
- however, it can be present asymptomatically (without showing any signs or symptoms).
MG is also implicated in other conditions, such as:
- pyelonephritis (inflamed kidney);
- Reiter’s syndrome (see SARA)
- and peritonitis (inflammation of the tissue covering the gut).
What treatment is there if I’ve got Mycoplasma genitalium?
MG is treated with antibiotics, often a single dose, but a five or 10-day course may be recommended.
When can I have sex again?
You should avoid sexual contact during treatment and for seven days afterwards.
Will my partner or partner(s) need to be treated, too?
Yes. Any sexual partner(s) in the last three to six months – or your latest partner if they were before that time – should be seen, ideally screened and treated.
If they are asymptomatic (don’t have any symptoms to test) they may be given treatment without testing.
To avoid re-infection, however, you should wait until seven days after their treatment also ends before resuming sexual activity together.
Do I need to be re-tested after I finish treatment?
Yes. You should have a test of cure a month after treatment to make sure it has worked.
If it did not, you will need a further course of treatment.
If I have Mycoplasma genitalium should I have an HIV test?
Yes. Since MG is sexually acquired you should have an HIV test in case it was also transmitted.
It is always important to know your HIV status, rather than guess or make assumptions.
How can I avoid catching Mycoplasma genitalium?
See the section on Safer Sex.