The Mycoplasma genitalium bacterium - it cannot be tested at home unlike a syphilis or chlamydia home test
The Mycoplasma genitalium bacterium. Credit: Thomas Deerinck, NCMIR/Science Source

If you have a watery discharge coming out of your penis or vagina, you experience a burning pain when you pee and feel pain when you engage in intercourse, you might have a little-known sexually transmitted infection called Mycoplasma genitalium (MG).

The bacterium that causes the STD was discovered in 1980 and was officially reported in 1981.

Over the years, not much attention has been paid to the infection compared to other STDs.

But medical experts have discovered that it is more prevalent than originally thought. In fact, it is more common in certain populations than Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

The bacterium infects the genital and urinary tracts of both males and females, causing acute urethritis among other health problems.

Scientists still don’t know much about this STD. So even diagnosis and treatment is a challenge. But there is ongoing research to learn more about the bacterium and find effective treatment options.

Signs and Symptoms of Mycoplasma genitalium

Symptoms for MG are very similar to those of other bacterial STDs: discharge, burning sensation and so on. Here are the specific signs to look out for.

  • A watery discharge from the penis. Women may also experience a vaginal discharge.
  • A burning sensation or pain while urinating for both men and women. This is usually a sign of urethritis, a condition caused by the STD. Both sexes may also experience more frequent urination.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding after sex or in between periods.
  • Women with the STD may experience abnormal pain during sex. This may be accompanied by pain in the pelvic area even when not having intercourse.

Testing for Mycoplasma genitalium

Getting tested for Mycoplasma genitalium

If you suspect you have MG, see your doctor for testing. Unlike gonorrhea, syphilis or chlamydia home test kits, there is no home or online test for MG.

Even for clinics, there is no FDA-approved test for the STD. But doctors have various ways of testing for it. They usually do a nucleic acid amplification test.

They’ll request for a pee sample or take a vaginal swab to check for the prescence of the bacterium.

It’s more difficult to test for MG compared to other STDs so the risk of a false negative is higher. If you test positive, it’s a good idea to get another test to confirm it.

Health Effects of Mycoplasma genitalium

The health effects of Mycoplasma genitalium don’t seem to be as severe as those associated with many other STDs.

But because of limited research, we are not sure what the long term health effects if the infection goes untreated.

The main effect of MG is urethritis in both men and women. This is a condition where the urethra – the tube where pee passes when going out of the body – becomes itchy and swollen. You may experience a burning sensation when you pee.

Mycoplasma genitalium is also thought to cause pelvic inflammatory disease or PID, an infection which affects a woman’s reproductive organs. PID increases the risk of infertility.

MG can also cause inflammation of the cervix, a condition called cervicitis.

Treatment of Mycoplasma genitalium

Treatment of MG is a major challenge for medical professionals.

The bacterium doesn’t respond to common antibiotics. Unlike most STD-causing bacteria, it doesn’t have a cell wall which antibiotics target.

The CDC has treatment guidelines that recommend azithromycin or doxycycline. If those fail, they recommend erythromycin as an alternative.

But there is growing worry that the infection is growing resistant to these medications. Researchers are keeping a close eye on any drug-resistant cases that might emerge.

It’s actually not the only STD that is becoming resistant to traditional antibiotics. Others like gonorrhea are also attracting increasing concern as they become more difficult to treat.

Prevention of Mycoplasma genitalium

As with any other STD, safe sex is the best way to protect yourself from Mycoplasma genitalium.

However, condoms don’t offer guaranteed protection since the infection can also be spread via body-to-body sexual contact.

So in addition to condoms, also practice other protective measures like regular testing and mutual exclusivity.

And if you notice a couple of the symptoms above, get tested immediately.

Mycoplasma genitalium: Signs & Symptoms of this Little Known STD

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