Rotimi Adesanya

A recent study suggests there is a new sexually transmitted infection Mycoplasma genitalium in town and it drew the attention of many Nigerians when British scientists uncovered its links to some sexual conditions. Various news outlets in the United Kingdom have also reported that the disease is on the rise and it is sometimes resistant to antibiotic treatment.

Mycoplasma genitalium is a small pathogenic bacterium that lives on the ciliated epithelial cells of the urinary and genital tracts in humans. It is an emerging and relatively common sexually transmitted infection currently affecting two per cent of young sexually active people.

MG, as it is called, can cause inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis) and pelvis in women and the inflammation of the urethra-the tube used to pass urine-in men.


Mycoplasma genitalium is transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex.

In most cases of the disease, there are no symptoms. However, for women, the symptoms may include a burning or painful sensation during urination, vaginal itching and pain during sex. Women with Cervicitis may experience abnormal discharge, pain during sex and bleeding after sex. The pelvic inflammatory disease can lead to heavy vaginal discharge with an unusual smell, abnormal uterine bleeding and fever, among other symptoms. The disease can also make women infertile.

In men, mycoplasma is often diagnosed in those who suffer from Nongonococcal Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), which is not caused by Gonorrhoea. Symptoms in men (if they are present) may include urethral discharge, burning or painful sensation during urination, arthritis (pain and swelling in the joints). In some cases, however, MG causes no symptoms at all.

Mycoplasma genitalium can be detected by nucleic acid amplification tests. Some NAAT tests also detect a mutation conferring resistance to antibiotics.

Men: In men, a first void urine specimen appears more sensitive than a urethral swab. A urine specimen for MG should be performed in all men with non-gonococcal urethritis.

Women: In women, a vaginal swab is the most sensitive specimen but first void urine or cervical swabs can be used. Women who present with cervicitis or PID should be tested for MG. Asymptomatic people sexual contacts of MG, particularly those in a continuing relationship with a symptomatic case, should be offered to test.


Mycoplasma has been associated with pelvic inflammatory disease in women. It has also been linked to endometritis (infection of the uterine lining), tubal infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion and is a possible cause of preterm delivery. It leads to epidydimo-orchitis in men. As such, the long-term consequences of infection with Mycoplasma seem to be similar to those of infection with gonorrhoea and chlamydia.


Mycoplasma genitalium is treated with antibiotics. Since it grows very slowly, a prolonged course of therapy may be required to eradicate it. A test is needed one month after treatment to make sure that the antibiotics worked. Very occasionally, a second course of antibiotics is required.

Prevention of Mycoplasma and other STDs

To prevent infection with a sexually transmitted disease, always avoid sex with anyone who has genital sores, a rash, discharge or other symptoms. The only time unprotected sex is safe is if you and your partner have sex only with each other. Use latex condoms every time you have sex. Avoid sharing towels or underclothing. Wash before and after intercourse. Get a vaccination for hepatitis B. This is a series of three shots. Get tested for HIV. If you have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse, get help, People who are drunk or on drugs often fail to have safe sex. Abstinence is the only sure way to prevent STDs.

By Rotimi Adesanya

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