Little Known Sex Disease ‘Could Become Full Blown Superbug,’ Experts Warn

Health

Experts have warned that a little known sexually transmitted infection, that causes infertility, can be the next superbug unless people get vigilant about it.

Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) can easily go unnoticed as it does not show any symptoms but can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility in some women. It can also develop a resistance to antibiotics if not treated correctly on time. Experts have warned that if it continues to become resistant to antibiotics, it can become a full-blown superbug causing infertility in more than 3,000 women.

British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) have warned that the infection can undoubtedly lead to a public health emergency if left unchecked. It has also drafted guidelines on how to spot the infection and treat it.

MG bacteria can spread through unprotected sex with someone infected by it and can be prevented by using condoms. In men, the bacteria can cause infection in the urethra while in women it can cause inflammation of the reproductive organs, which can cause pain and some bleeding.

The infection, which was first identified in the United Kingdom in 1980s, has now affected up to 2 percent of its population. However, advanced tests to diagnose the disease are not available in all clinics in U.K., as a result doctors have to send samples to Public Health England’s laboratory to get a diagnostic result.

Dr. Paddy Horner, from the University of Bristol, said, “If practices do not change and the tests are not used, MG has the potential to become a superbug within a decade, resistant to standard antibiotics.”

“Resources are urgently needed to ensure that diagnostic and antimicrobial resistance testing is available for women with the condition who are at high risk of infertility,” he said adding, “We are asking the government directly to make this funding available to prevent a public health emergency waiting to happen and which is already spiralling out of control.”

STD Experts have warned that a little known sexually transmitted infection, that causes infertility, can be the next superbug. In this image, people gather around lit candles in the shape of a ribbon during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign ahead of World Aids Day, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Nov. 30, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Speaking about his experience, a person who was infected by the bacterium, told  BBC, “I was diagnosed with MG last year after meeting my new partner. We both sensibly got tested and declared clean at the start of the relationship but GUM [genitourinary medicine] clinics don’t test for MG, unless you have symptoms.” 

About a month into the relationship, he developed infection in the urethra and after a few weeks, he and his partner were tested positive. They were put on antibiotics for two weeks and after further tests both tested negative.

“Then out of the blue I got a UTI (urinary tract infection) and symptoms were exactly like MG. I am now certain it has returned and I am awaiting further test results. The GUM clinic refused to retest my partner as she hasn’t shown any symptoms. I think clinics should test for MG as part of their sexual health screening process, as this would have been picked up at the start for me,” he said.

“If you have symptoms of an STI, we recommend you get tested at your local sexual health clinic. Everyone can protect themselves from STIs by consistently and correctly using condoms with new and casual partners,” Dr. Helen Fifer, consultant microbiologist at Public Health England, said.

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