Ever heard of mycoplasma genitalium? I had never heard of it either! That is, until a few weeks ago when I was scrolling through Instagram and a sex education account I follow posted about it. Mycoplasma genitalium, also known as MG, is a sexually transmitted infection that can be spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex, as well as rubbing up on someone that is infected. It is spread through sex fluids, so it is not just spread through penetration alone.
What are the symptoms of mycoplasma genitalium?
Similar to many other sexually transmitted infections, MG can oftentimes be present with no symptoms at all. In mild cases, it can clear up on its own. It is also not included in the standard STD screening provided at sexual health clinics or doctor’s offices. It is often only tested for if you present symptoms or specifically ask to be tested for it. If you have a penis, symptoms include watery discharge from the penis and burning, stinging, or pain while you pee. If you have a vagina, symptoms include abnormal discharge from your vagina, pain during sex, bleeding after sex or between periods, and pain in your pelvic floor or lower abdominals. There is not a test specifically for MG that is approved by the FDA, but it can be tested through a urine sample or via a swab test, swabbing the vagina, cervix, or urethra.
If left untreated, MG can cause urethritis, which is an irritated, swollen, and itchy urethra. It can also cause pelvic inflammatory disease in people with vaginas. It can lead to an inflamed cervix as well. Because it is a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics, however, it is often tricky to treat in one round. Traditionally, antibiotics treat bacterial infections by damaging the walls of a cell, but pesky ‘ole MG doesn’t have cell walls, so it often takes a few rounds of different antibiotics to completely get rid of it.
How can we prevent mycoplasma genitalium?
Safer sex practices such as condoms, gloves, and dental dams can decrease the chance of spreading MG, but since it can also be spread through sex fluids being rubbed on someone else during sexual activity, it’s possible it can still be spread even if someone is practicing safer sex. Since MG is not tested for unless specifically asked about, it’s important to stay in tune with your body and changing symptoms. A doctor would likely test for the standard STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, HPV, and HIV first, and if those came back negative and symptoms persisted, an MG test would likely be the next step. You can also specifically ask your doctor for an MG test if you suspect you might have it.
Treatments for mycoplasma genitalium
As with all STDs, if you find out you have it, you need to inform your sexual partners so they can also get tested, even if you use barrier methods for safer sex. Having an STD is not a big deal, and can be treated. In this case, MG is treated with antibiotics, just like infections in other parts of the body would be treated. Practice safer sex with condoms and barrier methods every time, stay in tune with changes you notice in your body, and get tested regularly to stay on top of your sexual health. If you do not have one monogamous partner, it is recommended to get tested after each new sexual partner, or once every six to 12 months. You can even get tested at home, so stay safe and have fun!