Could you be at risk?
You know you have to be smart about sex if you want to minimise your odds of contracting herpes or chlamydia. But a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology sheds light on another that sexually transmitted disease most people don’t even know about!
It’s called Mycoplasma genitalium, a.k.a. MG, a bacteria that can live in the urinary and genital tracts (the majority of women who have it experience bleeding after sex, but it’s also possible to deal with unusual vaginal discharge, lower pelvic pain, pain during sex, and bleeding between periods).
Researchers at University College London decided to examine MG because they haven’t discovered much about it since it was first isolated by scientists in the 1980s (and it definitely wasn’t clear that it was an STD at that point). They now believe that it’s transmitted via unprotected sex.
For the study, researchers analysed data from Britain’s third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, which was a survey of more than 15 000 women and men ages 16 to 44. Participants in that survey answered questions about their sexual habits, history of STDs, and current STD symptoms.
Of those that participated, researchers then took urine samples of 4507 women and men ages 18 to 44 who reported having at least one sexual partner. Forty-eight of the women and 24 of the men tested positive for MG. They found that, for both genders, there was a strong association between MG and the number of sexual partners and unsafe sex someone had had in the last year. (Those who had four or more sexual partners were at an increased risk.)
The Scary Part:
56 percent of the women who tested positive for MG reported having no STD symptoms (like vaginal discharge and pain during sex). However, they were more likely to experience bleeding after sex. (Fun!)
The researchers also took urine samples from 205 16- and 17-year-olds who reported never having had vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and the results all came back negative for MG. Those who reported only having had oral sex also tested negative for MG. That’s why they now believe MG is transmitted sexually.
There are potential biases in sexual behaviour research, which can influence the outcomes of studies like this, note the researchers. They also point out that MG is less likely to be detected in urine samples than from a vaginal swab, so there could’ve actually been more women who have it that just didn’t test positive using this study’s testing method.
So what can you to protect yourself? Obviously, condoms are your best line of defense against STDs. As for getting diagnosed with MG, the researchers say that there is evolving technology that allows people to be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and MG at the same time – and they’re hoping this soon becomes the standard at your doc’s office.
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