Ureaplasma Transmission

Ureaplasma Transmission

Table of Contents

Ureaplasma urealyticum, commonly known simply as ureaplasma, is a type of bacteria that’s commonly found in the genital and urinary tracts of both men and women. A ureaplasma bacterial infection can cause symptoms, but it’s also possible to have this infection without any symptoms. Here are answers to some of the most common questions that we hear about how ureaplasma is transmitted.

Is ureaplasma contagious?

Ureaplasma can be transmitted from one person to another, so it is considered contagious. These bacteria are relatively fragile, and are only able to live within a human body. The only known way for ureaplasma to be transmitted is directly from person to person.

The ureaplasma bacteria are part of a group of bacteria known as mycoplasma. Other types of mycoplasma are also contagious and are able to cause disease. For example, Mycoplasma hominis transmission occurs in the same way as ureaplasma transmission, and Mycoplasma genitalium is also very similar.

How is ureaplasma transmitted?

The most common way for ureaplasma to be transmitted is through sexual activity, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex. There are also nonsexual ways that the bacteria can be transmitted. For example, pregnant mothers with ureaplasma can pass the bacteria to their babies, either in utero or during vaginal delivery.

Can you get ureaplasma from oral sex?

Although they most commonly live in the genital and urinary tracts, the ureaplasma bacteria can also live in the throat. It is possible to get this infection from oral sex. Studies have found that performing fellatio (oral sex on a man) is more likely to lead to transmission of ureaplasma, while performing cunnilingus (oral sex on a woman) is less likely to transmit the infection.

Some people may experience a sore throat from having ureaplasma in the throat, but many will be asymptomatic. The usual standard test for ureaplasma uses a urine sample, but this will not detect ureaplasma in the throat. Testing for ureaplasma in the throat requires a throat swab.  If you’re concerned that you may have gotten the bacteria from oral sex, you will need to ensure that you get the right type of test to look for this.

Can you get ureaplasma from kissing?

Although ureaplasma can pass through oral sex, it is not known to be transmitted by kissing. This is because the organism can live in the throat, but generally not in the mouth. Ureaplasma also cannot be transmitted on surfaces, such as door handles or toilet seats.

Can a man give a woman ureaplasma?

Ureaplasma can pass from one sexual partner to another, regardless of the genders of the two partners. However, it’s actually more likely to pass from a man to a woman than from a woman to a man. (In fact, the same is true of most STDs.) This is why women sometimes tell us, “I have ureaplasma but my boyfriend doesn’t.” Ureaplasma can more easily be transmitted by a male than by a female.

Can you get ureaplasma without being sexually active?

The most common way that ureaplasma is transmitted is through sexual contact. However, there are also nonsexual ways that ureaplasma can be transmitted. One of these is from a pregnant mother to her baby. The baby may acquire the bacteria in utero or during the process of vaginal birth.

There have been cases of ureaplasma detected in the genital tracts of people who have never been sexually active, which indicates that nonsexual transmission is possible. It may be that these people got the infection when they were babies, and then carried it for many years. However, researchers are investigating the possibility of other nonsexual ways that ureaplasma might be transmitted. 

How long does it take for ureaplasma symptoms to show?

It’s very common for ureaplasma infection to cause no symptoms at all. If the bacteria are living in balance with the other normal bacteria of the genital tract, then they will not cause problems. If they do overgrow and cause symptoms, this will generally take about two to three weeks to become apparent.

Even if you have had ureaplasma for a long time with no symptoms, it’s possible for the bacteria to later grow out of balance and start causing problems. Just because you only recently started to notice symptoms of ureaplasma, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have only recently gotten infected with it. You may have had it for a long time and never known.

How long can ureaplasma go undetected?

There is no known limit to how long a person can have ureaplasma without finding out. Ureaplasma has been found in the genital tracts of up to 50% of people. As long as it doesn’t overgrow, it’s very likely to go undetected. People can carry this bacteria in their bodies for many years, possibly for their whole lives.

The only way to know whether you have ureaplasma is to get tested. Testing for ureaplasma is not always a part of a standard STD screening. This means that many people are never tested for this bacteria, and have no idea that they have it. If you’re concerned about the possibility of having a ureaplasma infection, then you’ll need to ensure that your test includes looking specifically for this organism. 

If you go to a clinic for your STD testing, you should tell your provider that you’d like to be tested for ureaplasma. If you choose at-home STD testing, then make sure that the kit you’re ordering includes ureaplasma testing. There are several options available that test for this organism.

Sources

Christopolous P, Deligeoroglou E, et al. Genital mycoplasmas in non-sexually active young females with vaginal discharge. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2007 Apr;97(1):49-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2006.09.028

Combaz-Söhnchen N, Kuhn A. A Systematic Review of Mycoplasma and Ureaplasma in Urogynaecology. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2017 Dec;77(12):1299-1303. doi:  10.1055/s-0043-119687

Kato Y, Kawaguchi S, et al. Prevalence of N. gonorrhoeae, C. trachomatis, M. genitalium, M. hominis and Ureaplasma spp. in the anus and urine among Japanese HIV-infected men who have sex with men. J Infect Chemother. 2020 Apr;26(4):403-406. doi: 10.1016/j.jiac.2019.12.007

Sackel SG, Alpert S, et al. Orogenital contact and the isolation of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Mycoplasma hominis, and Ureaplasma urealyticum from the pharynx. Sex Transm Dis Apr-Jun 1979;6(2):64-8. doi: 10.1097/00007435-197904000-00004

Sanchez PJ. Perinatal transmission of Ureaplasma urealyticum: current concepts based on review of the literature. Clin Infect Dis 1993 Aug;17 Suppl 1:S107-11. doi: 10.1093/clinids/17.supplement_1.s107


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