‘Pack those condoms’: Sex health docs warn rare STI could become ‘superbug’

Patrick Sheandell O'Carroll via Getty Images

About one in a hundred people are thought to be infected with MG, which has been called a "stealth STI" because it often has no symptoms. Experts say 3,000 British women could become infertile each year if it becomes untreatable.

An estimated 2% of people are infected in the United Kingdom, so The British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) has released new guidelines about how to treat and diagnose MG. "If practices do not change and the tests are not used, MG has the potential to become a superbug within a decade, resistant to standard antibiotics".

"Our guidelines recommend that patients with symptoms are correctly diagnosed using an accurate MG test, treated correctly then followed up to make sure they are cured".

This common mistake has meant the bug has been quietly getting stronger and more prevalent - and because it has been treated with the wrong drugs is now very resistant to any antibiotic.

In women, it can cause inflammation of the reproductive organs (womb and fallopian tubes) too, causing pain and possibly a fever and some bleeding.

The Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG) bacterium now only affects 1-2 percent of the public, but BASHH warned in a new set of guidelines it could become a superbug in 15 years' time if proper testing and treatment fails to be provided by local health services. Macrolide resistance in United Kingdom is estimated at about 40%, say the guidelines.

Dr Helen Fifer, consultant microbiologist at Public Health England, said: "The new BASHH guideline on MG is a positive step forward to improving testing and diagnosis". You can't shut down easyJet, the internet, Tinder and Grindr, all of which make it easier to find new partners.

MG does not always cause symptoms and will not always need treatment, but it can be missed or mistaken for a different sexually transmitted infection, such as Chlamydia.

It's not a great time to be having unprotected sex.

"It's yet another good reason to pack the condoms for the summer holidays - and actually use them".

The rate of sexually transmitted infections fell in the 1980s and early 1990s in response to fears over HIV.

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