Why pain while urinating could be a sign of a little-known STI you've never heard of that doctors warn is becoming resistant to drugs

By Fiona Connor and Stephen Matthews For Mailonline

A little-known sexually transmitted infection is rapidly becoming resistant to drugs, scientists have warned.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the world are believed to carry Mycoplasma genitalium (MG), which can cause infertility and lead to premature births.

Now sexual health researchers in Australia are warning scores of doctors are unaware of the STI as it is 'extraordinarily unrecognised' because it rarely causes symptoms.

However, they claim a new test could allow doctors to treat it before it wreaks havoc and robs young women of their dreams of having a family.

The STI, which can cause pain during sex and bleeding after, has become widespread across the world in the past decade as cases continue to escalate.

Figures suggest one in 100 adults in the UK and US carry the bug, while it is estimated to strike double that in Australia.

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MG, or mycoplasma genitalium, is carried by up to 400,000 Australians, according to researchers' estimates

MG, or mycoplasma genitalium, is carried by up to 400,000 Australians, according to researchers' estimates

Its rapid spread across the globe – caused primarily by a lack of awareness - is helping MG become resistant to antibiotics, researchers fear.

The new test, developed by SpeeDz in collaboration with the Melbourne Royal Women's Hospital, hopes to stop that by making doctors more aware of it.

Natika Halil, chief executive of the sexual health charity FPA, explained MG can multiply quickly as a result of illness or stress, which is when most people notice symptoms.

'Mycoplasma genitalium are tiny organisms, or bacteria, that can live in the body without causing any symptoms at all,' she said.

If left untreated the infection can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women, an infection of a woman's reproductive organs that can cause infertility.

The new test will identify the most suitable treatment, according to Dr Alexandra Marceglia, Unit Head of the Sexual Health and Rapid Access Service.

The new test that can diagnose the STI mycoplasma genitalium
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MG, or mycoplasma genitalium, is a sexually transmitted infection.

In men, MG 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, and a burning sensation in the penis when urinating. 

In women, MG causes infection of the cervix (opening of the uterus at the top of the vagina). 

Symptoms are usually absent but may include: abnormal discharge from the vagina, discomfort on urination, and bleeding between periods, often after sex.

If untreated, MG can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women. 

Symptoms can appear up to 35 days after infection.

Source: SA Health 

She told 9 News: 'We are no longer guessing in the dark. We can treat patients immediately with the antibiotic we know will work.'

Dr Catriona Bradshaw, sexual health researcher at Monash University, previously told the Sydney Morning Herald of her concerns over MG.

Speaking last year, she said: 'Many doctors don't really know about it, most doctors aren't testing for it, it's extraordinarily unrecognised.'

Dr Bradshaw added the resistance to frontline therapy has occurred over the last decade and has gone unnoticed because of a lack of testing.

MG is a small parasitic bacterium that can infect both men and women, passed through sexual contact or activity, such as foreplay.

Testing is usually undertaken to diagnose a problem if all other tests are inconclusive, for example if tests for chlamydia or gonorrhoea come back negative.

It is often asymptomatic, however other symptoms often include those similar to other STIs, such as pain while urinating, pain during sex, painful or discoursed discharge.

The bug has been around since the 1980s, but it was only classed as an STI in 2015 when scientific research showed it can be passed on through sex. 


Scientists identified MG as an STI following a landmark study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in November 2015.

The infection was first identified in the 1980s – but researchers at the time were unsure how it was transmitted.

The findings from 2015 were derived from answers of 4,500 people from Britain’s third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

The study revealed that teenagers who had not had vaginal, anal or oral sex had no signs of the infection – leading to it being classed as an STI.

It also revealed that up to 90 per cent of cases in men, and 66 per cent in women, are in people aged between 25 and 44.

The researchers, led by Dr Pam Sonnenberg, warned they are less likely to be diagnosed because measures to curb STIs are mainly aimed at young people.

The authors found that black men and those living in the most deprived areas were more likely to test positive for MG.

Worryingly, the majority of participants who tested positive for MG did not report any STI symptoms in the last month.

Over half of women did not report any symptoms, but among those who did, bleeding after sex was most common.

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