There’s yet another STI out there that could quickly morph into a superbug if it isn’t treated properly, the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV has warned in a set of guidelines regarding the management of the bacteria, Mycoplasma genitalium.
The infection can cause inflammation of the urethra in men, which leads to symptoms such as a burning pain while urinating or discharge from the penis. Often, men can carry the bacteria without showing symptoms.
In women, the bacteria can cause inflammation of the cervix as well as symptoms like bleeding after sex and painful urination. Most alarmingly, if left untreated, the bacteria can travel through the cervix and lead to a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which affects the reproductive organs, can cause pain in the lower abdomen, and in some cases, lead to infertility. According to the Australian STI Management Guidelines, the bacteria has also been associated with preterm delivery and miscarriages.
According to the guidelines, Mycoplasm genitalium affects up to 2% of the population in the UK, making it more common than gonorrhoea, and experts are concerned that its increasing resistance to antibiotics could create a superbug.
Symptoms often mimic those of chlamydia, which leads to misdiagnosis and people taking the wrong antibiotics, which in turn promotes antibiotic resistance.
In an interview with CNN, Dr Mark Lawton, a consultant in sexual health and HIV and the clinical lead at the Liverpool Center for Sexual Health, said:
“We are already seeing resistance to Mycoplasma genitalium because we are using antibiotics that treat chlamydia very well but [don’t] treat mycoplasma very well.”
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that you, as a layperson, can do about this impending superbug. Doctors need simple and inexpensive testing to be made available for the bacteria so they can easily identify it and prescribe antibiotics accordingly.
Just be clear with your doctor about your symptoms, keep your sexual partners informed, and practice safe sex.
Which you’re doing anyway, right? Right?