This Little-Known STD Could Become The "Next Superbug" Within A Decade

Like all STDs, it can easily be prevented by using a condom. Michel Ceccon/Shutterstock

There’s a little-known sexually transmitted disease (STD) that’s on the rise  and could soon become a very big problem.

Sexual health experts warn that Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) has the potential to become a drug-resistant superbug within a matter of years.

Research by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) found that over 70 percent of sexual health experts said that if current practices do not change, MG will become resistant to first and second line antibiotics within a decade. Left unchecked, they say this could result in thousands of women each year at increased risk of infertility from pelvic inflammatory disease caused by MG.

As a result of these daunting statistics, BASHH have just released draft guidelines to help the public and health services deal with this impending crisis.

“MG is rapidly becoming the new superbug: it’s increasingly resistant to most of the antibiotics we use to treat chlamydia and changes its pattern of resistance during treatment so it's like trying to hit a moving target,” Dr Peter Greenhouse, sexual health consultant from the UK, said in a statement.

If you’ve never heard of MG, that’s not surprising. The infection was only discovered in the 1980s, yet scientists didn’t know until years later that it was actually transmitted via sex. This lack of awareness is also part of the problem; the new data suggests that just one in 10 sexual health clinics in the UK have the right kits to diagnose the infection.

Much like chlamydia, many people don’t experience any symptoms if they are infected, although it can cause discharge, bleeding, and a burning sensation while peeing. It can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave some women infertile. It remains unknown whether this infection can cause male infertility.

MG is on the rise globally. It’s estimated that an MG infection exists in 1 to 2 percent of the population at the moment, with rates being slightly higher among women than men. It’s is passed on by sexual contact but, like all STDs, can easily be prevented by using a condom. Once infected, it is typically treated using common antibiotics, such as doxycycline, pristinamycin, or minocycline. However – here’s the problem – doctors are finding that these antibiotics are failing to treat the illness more and more due to rising antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is on the rise because of overuse, misuse, and inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics both in medicine and agriculture. New drugs and treatments have joined the human’s arsenal, but it remains one of the most troublesome challenges of the times ahead. As the rise of superbug MG shows, the problem goes much further than the “hospital superbugs” you often hear about, such as MRSA. Just like this story, experts are now bracing for the spread of a drug-resistant super gonorrhea. 

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