Mycoplasma Infections

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If you're told you have a mycoplasma infection, you'll need to dig a little deeper and find out what type you've got. There are five major kinds, and each one can affect you in a different way.

All mycoplasma infections have one thing in common, though. They're caused by tiny living things called bacteria.  Unlike other bacteria, the ones that lead to mycoplasma infections don't have cell walls. That's important because many kill bacteria by weakening those walls. Since mycoplasma bacteria don't have them, some, medications won't work against them.

There are about 200 types of mycoplasma bacteria, but most of them are harmless.

The ones you may have to worry about are:

  • Mucoplasma pneumoniae
  • Mycoplasma genitalium
  • Mycoplasma hominis
  • Ureaplasma urealyticum
  • Ureaplasma parvum

Mycoplasma pneumoniae

This type causes lung infections. About a third of people who get infected come down with a mild form of pneumonia called “walking pneumonia”.  Most people, especially children, will get "tracheobronchitis," a fancy name for a chest cold.

You can catch one of these infections when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes and sends droplets with the bacteria into the air.

If you're infected with Mycoplasma pneumoniae, you may get symptoms like:

  • Sore throat
  • cough
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Mycoplasma genitalium

You get this if you have sex with someone who's infected. Some people don't have any symptoms.

If you're a woman, you may notice that you:

  • Have pain during sex
  • Bleed from the vagina after sex
  • Get a discharge from the vagina

If you're a man, the infection can cause:

  • Urethritis - a swelling of the urethra, the tube that urine goes through as it leaves the body
  • Stinging or burning when you urinate
  • Discharge from the penis

To find out if you're infected, your doctor may do a test called NAAT to look for the bacteria's genes. He will ask for a urine sample or take a swab from the vagina, cervix, or urethra.  Your partner may need to get treated, too.  You can help prevent Mycoplasma genitalium if you use a condom during sex.

Mycoplasma hominis

These bacteria live in the urinary tract and genitals of about half of all women and fewer men. But if you're in general good health, you don't have to worry. They rarely cause an infection. Women with a weakened immune system -- your body's defense against germs -- are most at risk. You can sometimes pick up this infection during sex. The bacteria can also pass from a mother to her baby during childbirth.  If you're a woman, these bacteria may be linked to pelvic inflammatyory disease, an infection of your reproductive organs.

They can also lead to problems if you're pregnant, such as:

  • Ectopic pregnancy (the embryo grows outside the uterus)
  • Early delivery
  • Miscarriage

Mycoplasma hominis can also cause a fever and infection in your new-born baby.  To find out if you have an infection caused by this type of bacteria, your doctor will test a sample of fluid from your vagina or urethra.  To help keep this infection away, always use a condom during sex. And limit how many partners you have.

Ureaplasma urealyticum and Ureaplasma parvum

Most healthy women have these bacteria in their cervix or vagina, and a smaller number of men also have them in their urethra. Normally, they don't cause any problems.  Ureaplasma can spread during sex. If you're pregnant and you're infected, you can pass the bacteria to your baby in the womb or during childbirth. 

Some symptoms women can get are:

  • It hurts when you urinate
  • Belly pain
  • Pain, odour or discharge from the vagina
  • Sweeling at the opening of the urethra
  • Discharge from the urethra

Men who are infected can get inflammation of the urethra, called urethritis.

During pregnancy, the bacteria can lead to infections in both the mother and the baby.

Problems in new-born babies can include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Pneumonia
  • Bacteria in the blood called septicemia

To diagnose a ureaplasma infection, your doctor can take a sample of fluid from:

  • Blood
  • amniotic fluid
  • Placental tissue
  • Cevix
  • Urethra

If you were infected while pregnant, your new-born baby may also need to get treatment.

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