Researchers are getting closer to understanding the long-term impact of Mycoplasma genitalium, the often asymptomatic sexually transmitted infection that bears some resemblance to other well-known STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia. Understanding the impact of this emerging pathogen is key to determining whether screening is needed and to informing treatment recommendations.
As part of an effort to determine whether it is time for a public health control program for M. genitalium, Dr. Lisa Manhart from the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and Dr. Harold Wiesenfeld from the University of Pittsburgh, summarized what is known about M. genitalium infection in women and outlined recommendations for future research to better understand the implications of M. genitalium in women’s health.
The articles, presented in a supplement to the Journal of Infectious Diseases, share the outcomes of a 2016 National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-funded Technical Consultation that brought together M. genitalium researchers to review the current knowledge and concerns around the pathogen. Other articles in the supplement summarize what is known about pathogenesis, infections in men, diagnostic assays, treatment and antimicrobial resistance, and criteria for developing public health control programs.
Drs. Manhart, David Martin from Tulane University and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, and Kimberly Workowski from Emory University co-organized the consultation and co-edited the supplement.
“We reached a tipping point in our research on M. genitalium where there was finally enough data to figure out if we needed a public health response,” said Manhart, a professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Global Health. “The goal of the consultation was to review the evidence and make some recommendations about whether a national control program in the US was appropriate.”
M. genitalium can cause inflammation in the urethra (urethritis) in men and is associated with female reproductive tract syndromes. It is also commonly asymptomatic in both men and women. Compared to more commonly known STIs in the United States, M. genitalium is more prevalent than Neisseria gonorrhoeae, but less than Chlamydia trachomatis.
When detected, M. genitalium is commonly treated with antibiotics. However, the genetic makeup of the bacteria facilitates the development of antibiotic resistance and rates of this resistance are high, making treatment challenging.