Physicians urge more research into STI tied to infertility

Physicians are calling for more research into mycoplasma genitalium or M. gen, — a sexually transmitted bacterium that has been linked to infertility and miscarriage. Experts worry many cases of the infection may be undiagnosed, NBC News reported Sept. 25.

While scientists have known about M. gen for decades, the first FDA-approved test for the infection wasn't commercially available until 2019. There is limited insight into how prevalent the STI is since testing is relatively new, physicians don't have to report diagnosed cases and the CDC does not recommend routine screening. 

"It's a real concern," Irene Stafford, MD, associate professor of maternal-fetal medicine at UTHealth Houston's medical school, said during a recent CDC conference on preventing STDs, according to NBC. "Why are we not looking into this?" she asked.

M. gen infections are sometimes asymptomatic. Symptoms can include pain and discomfort while urinating, abnormal discharge among men and women, and pain in the lower abdomen or bleeding after sex among women. In women, it's associated with cervical swelling, pelvic inflammatory disease, miscarriage, preterm birth and infertility. 

Experts estimate as many as 20 percent of sexually active women and 16.5 percent of men aged 15 to 25 may be infected with M. gen. Adding to the concern surrounding M. gen is the bacteria's newly developed resistance to the Z-pack, the most common antibiotic used to treat STIs. 

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