Heard of mycoplasma genitalium? Everyone should be aware of this lesser-known STI
So there’s some not great news for the sexually active. Apparently there is a new STI called mycoplasma genitalium you need to ask to get tested for. Well, it’s not really new, but with better STI testing (or just more STI testing) going down on the regular, doctors are discovering that this almost unpronounceable disease is pretty common. Actually, you might have it without knowing.
Before you hypochondriacs out there start to freak out (see: me), know that it’s treatable and not at all fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But it’s worth informing yourself because it can have some lasting affects on the body if it goes untreated. The best thing to do is ask about it specifically the next time you get a checkup or go to the gyno to re-up your birth control. There’s not an FDA-approved test for it yet, but if you have certain symptoms and your doc is confused, it could be mycoplasma genitalium, and there are tests for other bacterias they can run.
There’s not a whole lot known about the bacteria, what it does, or exactly how it’s transmitted. It’s also hard to spot. A 2015 study found that about 1 percent of people in the United States have it, which is more people than have gonorrhea. In addition to that, most people don’t show symptoms.
So what the hell are the symptoms?
In women, the symptoms are super common, which is why they largely go unnoticed. There might be chronic pelvic pain, vaginal irritation, bleeding during intercourse, spotting between your period, or abnormal vaginal discharge. Of course, these are also the symptoms of other gynecological problems. Dr. Antonio Pizarro told Self that when he sees those symptoms now, he tests immediately for mycoplasma, as well as thinking about yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
What’s the worst that can happen?
If it goes untreated, the CDC thinks mycoplasma can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and could cause fertility issues — just like any other untreated STI. According to the CDC, it can cause an infection in the fallopian tubes so eggs no longer pass, or scarring, which also leads to problems with with fertility down the line. Right now, there’s just a pretty good guess that there’s a link. Pizzaro said, “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of science and research around it.” In men, it can cause urethritis, which is an inflammation in the uretha.
Can you treat it?
Sort of. Research shows that in men, certain regimens of antibiotics can treat urethritis, but the cure rate was just at around 85 percent in the most recent studies the CDC cites. If it goes diagnosed in women, it’s usually at a point where you’re treating pelvic inflammatory disease or other issues.
Until there are more studies done, the most you can do for now is have it on your radar and make sure you ask a doc about it the next time you get tested. If you’re having sex (and you should be, by all means), getting tested for STIs should be something you do once a year to catch anything early enough to treat and manage it.