Have you heard of Mgen? The STI half a million Brits have, but nobody's heard of

Doctors have warned of a relatively new STI that less than one in five people have heard of.

Mycoplasma genitalium, or Mgen, was discovered in the early 1980s, but a reliable test for Mgen wasn’t produced until 2017.

Despite less than 15% of people having heard of it, Mgen impacts up to half a million Brits, or 1-2% of the sexually active population.

The reason Mgen is relatively prevalent while also remaining unheard of is that it is often symptomless, just like HPV.

‘What makes this STI so prevalent is its ability to go undetected,’ said Dr Neel Patel, GP at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor.

What is Mgen?

Mgen is an STI caused by a tiny bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium that affects the urinary tract of both men and women.

According to Dr Neel, ‘it can be spread by both vaginal and anal sex, although transmission may occur even without penetration.’

Symptom-wise, Mgen is similar to chlamydia, although it is caused by a different bacteria.

While Mgen is often symptomless in 80% of men and 50-70% of women, some people do show symptoms after one to three weeks after infection. 

The symptoms are slightly different in men and women.

Mgen Symptoms

The symptoms are slightly different in men and women.

Mgen symptoms in men:

  • Pain when urinating
  • White discharge from the penis
  • Burning or itching from the urethra 
  • Itchiness or discharge from the anus (if you’ve had anal sex)
  • Pain in the testicles

Mgen symptoms in women:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the stomach or pelvis
  • Pain during sex
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Painful bleeding between periods
  • Itchiness or discharge from the anus (if you’ve had anal sex)

It’s possible to get tested for Mgen, however it isn’t routine at STI clinics, so it’s a good idea to ask your doctor directly for an Mgen test.

However, says Dr Neel, ‘they may only test for it if you present symptoms or if you’ve raised it as a concern.’

Is Mgen dangerous?

Mgen often clears up on its own, however, left untreated, it has been linked to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which, says Dr Neel, ‘has been associated with preterm births and miscarriages.’

He said: ‘If someone is infected who has other STIs, such as HIV, Mgen may make them more likely to pass on those other infections.’

It’s also important to note that Mgen can lie dormant in the body for months or years, so getting tested is vital to ensure you don’t pass it on to someone else.

How is Mgen treated?

‘It is very unlikely for Mgen to go away by itself so it’s important to seek treatment,’ says Dr Neel.

‘Mgen can be treated by a course of antibiotics, though it may take multiple rounds and different types of antibiotic to clear the infection.’

One major concern with Mgen is that it could become a ‘superbug’.

Due to its similarities with chlamydia, doctors in the past often tried to treat Mgen as chlamydia, causing a rise in antibiotic resistance, making it even more important to get tested and treated as soon as possible. 

Once treated, Dr Neel advises waiting two weeks after finishing your antibiotics to have unprotected sex to ensure you don’t pass it on.

Finally, if you want to avoid catching Mgen, make sure to get tested regularly (every three to six months, depending on your number of sexual partners) and always wear a condom.

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