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Mycoplasma genitalium infection - including symptoms, treatment and prevention

This is an infection caused by Mycoplasma genitalium bacteria.

How Mycoplasma genitalium infection is spread

Mycoplasma genitalium (M. genitalium) is transmitted sexually.

Signs and symptoms

Men

In men M. genitalium infection causes urethritis (infection of the urethra, the urinary canal leading from the bladder to exit at the tip of the penis). Symptoms may include:

  • watery discharge from the penis
  • burning sensation in the penis when urinating.

Women

In women M. genitalium infection causes infection of the cervix (opening of the uterus (womb) at the top of the vagina). Symptoms are usually absent but may include:

  • abnormal discharge from the vagina
  • discomfort on urination
  • bleeding between periods, often after sex.

Without adequate treatment, infection of the cervix may spread to the Fallopian tubes (tubes leading from the ovary to the uterus) and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This may be without symptoms, but there may be:

  • fever
  • low abdominal pain
  • pain on intercourse.

If untreated, PID may lead to scarring of the Fallopian tubes and ectopic or tubal pregnancy (in the Fallopian tubes) or eventual infertility.

Diagnosis

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test in a pathology laboratory on urine or a sample of discharge from the cervix or urethra. However, a PCR test for M. genitalium is not readily available and many infections in men will be labelled as non-specific urethritis.

The diagnosis is usually made when symptoms are present and tests for gonorrhoea and chlamydia are negative and further testing for M. genitalium is undertaken.

Incubation period

(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)

Variable, usually 2 to 35 days.

Infectious period

(time during which an infected person can infect others)

Until appropriate antibiotic treatment has been completed.

Treatment

Effective antibiotic treatment is available on prescription from a doctor.

Continued or recurring symptoms may require referral for specialist treatment.

Prevention

  • Practise safer sex.

  • No sex until antibiotic treatment is completed and your usual sexual partner has completed treatment.
  • A follow-up test must be done to make sure that treatment has cleared the infection.
  • All sexual partners need to be contacted, tested and, if indicated, treated. Even if partners have no symptoms they may be able to transmit infection to other sexual partners.
  • Testing to exclude other sexually transmitted infections is advisable.

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