Rates of little-known super-STIs ‘that cause infertility’ have risen 64-fold in the past decade, government figures reveal
- Over 5,000 cases of genital mycoplasma were recorded in England in 2021
- In comparison, only 79 cases of MG were recorded in 2015, according to figures
- Very few people, even doctors, knew about stealth STI until very recently
Rates of a super-STI that can cause infertility in women have increased 60-fold over the past decade, official figures revealed today show.
More than 5,000 cases of Mycoplasma genitalium – which becomes drug resistant – were recorded in England in 2021.
By comparison, just 79 cases of MG were recorded when experts first proved it to be a sexually transmitted infection seven years ago.
Although it was discovered in the 1980s, very few people, even doctors, knew about it until very recently.
Mycoplasma genitalium, also known as M. genitalium or M. gen, causes severe symptoms, including infertility, but is resistant to four different types of antibiotics. It is estimated that as many as one in five sexually active US citizens may have it
WHAT IS THE PREVALENCE OF STIS IN ENGLAND?
According to data from the UK Health Security Agency, 311,604 STIs were diagnosed in 2021.
The figure is 0.5% higher than in 2020 but a third lower than pre-Covid levels, when 440,000 people were diagnosed, on average, each year.
However, testing rates are lower than they were before the pandemic, which may mean some cases are flying under the radar.
Chlamydia: 159 448
Genital herpes: 21,649
Genital mycoplasma: 5,109
Non-specific genital infection: 14,471
Pelvic inflammatory disease and epididymitis: 10,437
Chlamydial pelvic inflammatory disease and epididymitis: 853
Genital warts: 28,280
Other New STI Diagnoses: 13,630
This is because it is often misdiagnosed as chlamydia.
This mistake allowed the bacteria to quietly grow stronger and spread under the radar.
And because he was treated with the wrong drugs, he is now very resistant to any antibiotics.
Most people with MG have no symptoms, but can still pass it on to others.
Severe cases can cause painful inflammation and watery discharge in men.
But the STI can be more serious for women, potentially causing uterine scarring that renders them infertile.
Today’s MG figures were released by the UK Health Security Agency, which monitors STI rates across England.
The data revealed that MFG rates jumped by a fifth year on year in the space of a year, from 4,230 in 2020 to 5,109 in 2021.
However, they are still slightly lower than pre-pandemic rates, with doctors recording a sharp drop in STIs as lockdowns and social distancing have reduced sexual activity.
MG rates had increased fivefold year-on-year before the pandemic hit, with 431 cases in 2017, 1,981 in 2018 and 5,331 in 2019.
UKHSA statistics also show there were 311,604 new STI diagnoses in England in 2021, up 0.5% from 309,921 in 2020.
The figure is a third lower than before Covid, with 440,000 new STIs recorded, on average, in the five years before the first chaos caused by the virus.
One in 172 men (1.6% more than in 2020) and one in 207 women (14.9% less than in 2020) have discovered they have an STI.
However, charities have warned that testing rates are still lagging behind pre-Covid levels.
While testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV in sexual health services increased by a fifth from 2020, the rate is still 13.2% lower than in 2019, which means fewer cases are being detected.
The data also revealed there was a “marked” 8% increase in syphilis cases last year, with 7,506 new diagnoses compared to 6,923 in 2020.
What is Mgen?
Mycoplasma genitalium, also known as M. genitalium or M. gen., is a sexually transmitted disease.
It is a bacterial infection that infects the urinary and genital tracts of both men and women.
First discovered in London in the 1980s, it is transmitted through sexual contact.
Babies can also acquire the infection from their mothers before they are born through amniotic fluid.
It is more common in young people and also in people who have unprotected sex and have multiple sexual partners (although this is true for all STIs).
The infection is similar to chlamydia, but is caused by a different bacteria.
Past M. gen. the cases may have been mistaken for chlamydia and treated like it, which allowed him to gradually develop resistance to different antibiotics.
However, it is possible to have both infections.
- Bleeding and swollen genitals
- Urethritis, swelling and irritation of the urethra, making urination painful
- Abnormal flow
- Cervical swelling
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, causing pain in the lower abdomen and bleeding after sex