There are many different pathogens that can cause STDs, such as viruses, parasites, and bacteria. But you may have not heard about Mycoplasma genitalium, which can lay dormant for a long time and be confused with other infections. However, it’s important to learn how to identify and prevent this disease, since it can be transmitted to your sexual partners.
Keep reading to learn more about Mycoplasma genitalium symptoms and causes.
Mycoplasma genitalium symptoms and causes
What is Mycoplasma genitalium?
Mycoplasma genitalium, also known as M. genitalium or Mgen, is a type of bacteria that causes a sexually transmitted disease (STDs).
M. genitalium is a very small bacterium that can infect the urogenital system, which includes the vagina, uterus, Fallopian tubes, and urethra, which is the small tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body. Mycoplasma genitalium can also affect men, infecting the urethra and epididymis, which is a small tube that carries sperm.
How common is Mycoplasma genitalium?
Since the majority of cases of Mycoplasma genitalium are completely asymptomatic, it’s very difficult to accurately determine how common it is. However, some studies have found that this bacteria could affect 1 to 2 out of every 100 adults between the ages of 16 to 44. It has also been estimated that Mgen could infect approximately 3 percent of the world’s population.
According to the CDC, Mycoplasma genitalium is thought to be the cause of approximately 15 to 20 percent of all cases of non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU), 20 to 25 percent of cases of non-chlamydial NGU, and 40% of persistent or recurrent urethritis. Coinfection with chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis) seems to be common in cases of Mgen infection, and many cases of mycoplasma could be confused with chlamydia, since the latter is more common and spreads more easily. M. genitalium can also be found in up to 30 percent of women with clinical cervicitis.
Mycoplasma genitalium symptoms
Like many other STDs, Mgen can be completely asymptomatic in many cases. However, you can still spread this bacteria to your partners, even if you don’t exhibit any symptoms at all. In many cases, your immune system could clear the infection on its own, but it’s impossible to predict who will be able to do this and who won’t.
The incubation period for Mgen is very variable and hasn’t been determined with total accuracy. However, it has been estimated that symptoms could appear anywhere from 2 weeks to over 60 days after being exposed to the bacteria, since it usually grows very slowly.
According to a study published by the Journal of Skin and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, symptoms of Mycoplasma genitalium in men can include:
- Watery or cloudy penile discharge
- Pain during urination and/or ejaculation
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Swelling around the foreskin and the tip of the penis
- Proctitis or rectal inflammation (in cases of rectal Mgen)
In women, Mgen can cause symptoms that include:
- Abnormal and/or increased vaginal discharge
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Burning sensation during urination
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- Pain or spotting during or after intercourse
- Lower abdominal pain
More research is needed to determine the long-term complications of untreated Mgen, but according to a review published by the journal Microbiology, it has been associated with different conditions, including:
- Acute and chronic urethritis
- Cervicitis (in women)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) (in women)
- Epididymo-orchitis (in men)
- Preterm delivery
- Spontaneous abortions
- Fertility problems
- Sexually acquired reactive arthritis (SARA)
Mycoplasma genitalium causes
Mgen is transmitted by having sex with another person who has the bacterium, even if they’re asymptomatic. It spreads through penetrative vaginal or anal sex. Although transmission during oral sex is possible, it’s very unlikely and very few cases of Mgen caused by oral sex have been recorded. According to a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, carrying M. genitalium in the oropharynx (throat) is very uncommon. However, you still need to practice safe oral sex, since there are many other STDs that can be transmitted through oral-to-genital contact.
Mycoplasma genitalium is more likely to affect younger individuals or people who don’t use condoms during sex. According to a study published by the Indian Journal of Medical Research, the risk factors for Mgen can include:
- Younger age during your first intercourse
- Having sex with a partner who has symptoms of an STD
- Coinfection with another STD
- Having multiple sexual partners
Smoking is also a risk factor for this STD — in fact, smoking can increase your risk for many different infections.
Mycoplasma genitalium can also increase your risk of catching HIV if you’re exposed to the virus. If you already have HIV and become infected with Mgen, you could also have increased viral shedding that can put your partners at risk.
Despite the fact that we don’t know everything about Mycoplasma genitalium, its symptoms, and causes yet, research tells us that this tiny bacterium could be associated with certain long-term complications. Fortunately, there are a number of tests and treatments that you can take to keep yourself and your partners protected from Mgen. You can learn more about STD testing at STDWatch.com.
- Mycoplasma genitalium - cdc.gov
- Sexually transmitted infection by Mycoplasma genitalium: A short review - jsstd.org
- Mycoplasma genitalium: A Review - pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Mycoplasma genitalium Infection in Men - academic.oup.com
- Mycoplasma genitalium: An emerging sexually transmitted pathogen - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov