Researchers say one percent of sexually active people in the United Kingdom have been infected by a new sexually transmitted infection. The infection - mycoplasma genitalium (MG) - causes few, and often no, symptoms. It is unclear whether it could trigger complications such as infertility.
The study adds to the accumulating evidence base that MG causes infection in a few men and women, and the study found that women with MG were more likely to report bleeding after sexual activity.
‘A British population study found that around 1 in 100 men and women aged 16-44 living in England, Wales and Scotland are infected with Mycoplasma genitalium bacteria, and that it is likely to be transmitted by sexual contact. The infection doesn't lead to symptoms in the majority of men and around half of women.
Many media sources describe MG as a new infection, but it was actually discovered in 1981, although at the time it was unclear if it was a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Nigel Field, consultant clinical epidemiologist at Public Health England (PHE), which worked on the study, said in a statement that while laboratory testing for MG is not yet widely available in the United Kingdom, steps are being taken to investigate the infection further.
The researchers found that black men and people living in the most deprived areas were most likely to test positive for MG. The majority of people who tested positive for MG had not experienced any symptoms in the previous month.
An estimated one percent of Brits aged 16-44 are thought to be affected. Effects of MG include inflammation of the urethra and/or cervix, pelvic inflammatory disease and possibly female infertility, though the long-term effects are still being investigated.
For participants with four or more partners in the previous year, the bacteria was present in 5.2 percent of men and 3.1 percent of women. "These findings suggest that only testing those who are now symptomatic would miss the majority of infections", said Pam Sonnenberg, lead author of the paper.
"Further research is needed to understand the clinical implications of infection and possible longer-term complication", she added.