Ureaplasma and mycoplasma are both types of bacteria. They’re so small that they can’t be seen through a microscope, and uniquely, they don’t have cell walls. Both types of bacteria often live harmlessly in healthy adults, but if the balance is disturbed, ureaplasma or mycoplasma might begin to cause problems.
Once the balance is upset and there’s an over-production of bacteria, it can turn into an infection. In turn, this can cause inflammation in other tissues (most commonly, in the case of ureaplasma, the urethra).
Ureaplasma and mycoplasma infections are easy to treat with a certain type of antibiotic, though it’s important to take the right kind, as due to their lack of cell walls, the infections might not respond to certain medicines.
"Ureaplasma and mycoplasma infections aren’t usually anything to worry about. Although they can be transmitted through sex, they aren’t classed as an STI due to the very little damage they cause to the organs. These type of infections can be easily treated with a short course of antibiotics such as doxycycline."
What is mycoplasma/ureaplasma?
Mycoplasma and ureaplasma are some of the smallest organisms in the world, in fact, they’re so small that they can’t even be seen with a microscope.
The bacteria tend to live harmlessly within healthy adults, but as with most bacteria, the right balance is needed or else they can cause problems. Mycoplasma and ureaplasma are no different to this general rule.
Both types of bacteria are parasitic, meaning that they need a host to survive.
How do I know if I have a mycoplasma/ureaplasma infection?
The funny thing about ureaplasma and mycoplasma infections are the fact that they’re often asymptomatic, so you won’t necessarily know that you have a problem or an imbalance.
However, ureaplasma can often affect the genitourinary tract, so you may experience symptoms that indicate inflammation of the urethra (also known as urethritis). If you’re suffering with this, you might notice:
- Pain during urination
- A burning sensation
- Discharge from the urethra
Women may also experience bacterial vaginosis, and the signs of this include a watery vaginal discharge alongside an unpleasant, fishy odour.
In addition to these symptoms, if you’re affected by a ureaplasma infection, you might also notice:
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding from the vagina after sex
- Discharge from the vagina
- Penis discharge
Ureaplasma infections can be diagnosed in a few different ways. Your doctor might take a urine sample, cervical or endometrial swab, and in rare cases, possibly an endometrial biopsy.
How do you get a ureaplasma infection?
Ureaplasma can be transmitted during sex, but it isn’t classed as a classic STI due to the fact that it isn’t known to cause any long lasting damage like other STIs such as HIV or chlamydia. Ureaplasma can also be transmitted from mother to baby during birth if a mother is infected during pregnancy, but the infection usually clears with antibiotics.
Can ureaplasma be treated?
Yes, the good news is that ureaplasma is an easy infection to fight off, especially with antibiotics such as doxycycline. There are only a few antibiotics that ureaplasma infections will respond to, as the bacteria are unique in the fact that they don’t have a cell wall. Luckily, all of the antibiotics in question are easily available, and if your GP suspects that you might have a mycoplasma or ureaplasma infection, they’re most likely to prescribe these for the fastest results.
If you have a newborn with the infection, it’s best to visit a GP for advice, as your baby might also need antibiotics to fight off the infection.
What are the complications of a ureaplasma infection?
Ureaplasma infections have been linked to bacterial vaginosis and pregnancy complications such as premature birth, but it’s important to know that it doesn’t cause either of these.
Ureaplasma is just one part of the puzzle.