A not so popular sexually transmitted disease (STD) is actually a lot more common than it has been previously thought, a new study finds.
In the new study – published November 3 in the International Journal of Epidemiology – the researchers found that more than 250,000 people (or 1 percent) in the United Kingdom ages 16 to 44 are infected with the Mycoplasma genitalium bacterium. United States studies had similar results.
Based on the new data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that Mycoplasma genitalium may in fact be a more common sexually transmitted disease than gonorrhoea.
Although the bacteria Mycoplasma genitalium were first discovered in 1980, some describe the M. genitalium as a new STI (sexually transmitted infection).
Lisa Manhart, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington in Seattle said that at the time of its discovery, researchers did not have the necessary tests to study Mycoplasma genitalium, so the correlation between M. genitalium and sexual activity was only detected later (about mid-1990s).
The new study also found that the Mycoplasma genitalium infection was a lot more common in those who had at least four new sexual partners in the past year, compared with people who only had one (or none) new partner in the past year.
According to the researchers, no infection was detected in people who had never had sex, and most infections occurred in those who had unprotected sex.
About 56 percent of women and 94 percent of men who were infected with Mycoplasma genitalium presented no symptoms.
In women, the bacteria can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, cervicitis or inflammation of the cervix, pain in the lower abdomen, bleeding or pain during sex, the CDC stated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men who have the disease may experience urethritis or inflammation of the urethra that triggers symptoms like burning pain while urinating, blood in the semen or urine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve a test for Mycoplasma genitalium. Doctors do not typically test for the bacteria either, according to Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, urologist at Orlando Health in Florida.
Dr. Brahmbhatt said that the Mycoplasma genitalium sexually transmitted disease can be usually treated with a five-day course of antibiotics.
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