Rates of little-known STI that ‘could lead to infertility’ soar 64-fold

Most cases were found in men last year, according to public health data

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 05 October 2022 17:16 BST
Sexual health experts say Mycoplasma genitalium can mirror symptoms of chlamydia
Sexual health experts say Mycoplasma genitalium can mirror symptoms of chlamydia (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The number of cases of a little-known sexually-transmitted infection have soared by more than 60 times in just seven years, official figures show.

Just 79 cases of mycoplasma genitalium (MG) were identified in England in 2015, according to public health data.

Last year, the number of infections of the STI was 64 times higher with just over 5,100 cases detected.

Most of these - around 3,000 - were in men, while just under 2,000 were in women.

Sexual health professionals have previously warned the infection - whose symptoms can mirror chlamydia - was becoming resistant to antibiotics.

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In its latest guidance, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) says some strains are already resistant to certain antibiotics and need further treatment with others.

It says most people with MG do not suffer any problems and many get rid of the infection without any treatment.

For others, symptoms can include burning when passing urine, discharge from penis, pelvic pain and bleeding after sex.

If left untreated, it could cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which could lead to infertility.

BASHH says the infection can spread to the testicles if untreated in men and cause pain and swelling, although it is not yet known whether this could cause long-term fertility problems.

The highest number of cases since 2015 - when national surveillance of MG rates started - was 5,311 in 2019. Before that, the figure had risen steadily each year, but was still just 1,900 in 2018.

The UK Health and Security Agency said the 2020 figure - which was 4,230 - and 2021 figure - 5,109 - were lower than before due to the impact of the Covid pandemic on sexual health services.

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