British public health officials are warning that Mycoplasma genitalium, a bacterial infection known as MGen, could soon become immune to antibiotics, writes Peter Hess for Inverse. This occurrence would vault MGen into the growing class of bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotic drugs, known as a superbug.
The bacterium, lurking in humans’ urinary and genital tracts, is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Infected women can experience pelvic inflammation and cervical inflammation, while men can experience inflammation of the urethra. However, sometimes the infection will not cause any noticeable symptoms, which would allow an infected person to transmit the disease without realizing they’re doing so. The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) issued guidelines for handling MGen in light of the emerging threat. BASHH officials explain that MGen typically responds to treatment with azithromycin, a common antibiotic. Still, in some cases, officials warn that the bacterium has shown resistance to drugs like moxifoxacin.
In the US, the CDC reports that while cases of MGen are higher than Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea), it’s still relatively uncommon in the states. BASHH provided doctors with recommendations for treating patients in order to reduce the chance of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They advised physicians to spread out doses of azithromycin over multiple days to help ensure that the entire population of pathogenic bacteria is obliterated, Hess writes. This method follows from research finding that the use of antibiotics for shorter periods of times can sometimes promote resistance. As with any sexually transmitted disease, the best course to follow is using a condom to mitigate the risk.