Sexually transmitted infection could turn into superbug

Avatar By Joseph Scalise | 2 years ago

Scientists in the United Kingdom believe a relatively unknown sexually transmitted infection could turn into the next superbug if people are not more careful.

While the disease — known as Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) — often has no symptoms, it can cause infertility in women through pelvic inflammatory disease. It is also easy to miss and, if it is not treated correctly, it can develop a natural resistance to antibiotics.

To counter that, the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV plans to draft new guidelines that will cover how to both spot and treat MG.

The bacteria can cause inflammation of the urethra in men, which leads to discharge from the penis and makes it painful to urinate. In women, it can cause inflammation within the reproductive organs, which may lead to pain, fever, and minor bleeding.

What makes the infection so tricky is that is does not always cause symptoms and does not always need treatment. For that reason, it is often mistaken for other common sexually transmitted infections.

“This is not curing the infection and is causing antimicrobial resistance in MG patients,” said guideline author Paddy Horner, consultant senior lecturer in sexual health at Bristol University, according to The Telegraph. “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.”

Current data shows that eradication rates of MG following treatment with one family of antibiotics, known as macrolides, have lowered with time.

Though researchers have developed some early tests for the disease, such options are not yet available in most clinics. As a result, scientists hope the new guidelines — which come from 15 years of study — will help prevent MG from turning into a superbug.

The instructions recommend that patients with any of the common MG symptoms use an accurate test for diagnosis in order to make sure they are correctly treated. Protection is important as well.

“If you have symptoms of an STI, we recommend you get tested at your local sexual health clinic,” said Helen Fifer, consultant microbiologist at Public Health England, according to BBC News.

“Everyone can protect themselves from STIs by consistently and correctly using condoms with new and casual partners.”