A field guide to the new STD everybody’s talking about

We haven’t received great news about STDs in the past few years. Between 2013 and 2014, the CDC reports there was a 15% increase in primary and secondary syphilis and a 27.5% increase in congenital syphilis, in addition to a nearly 3% rise in chlamydia and a 5% rise in gonorrhea. And the More Bad News Train is pulling into the station — in addition to these rising STD stats, there is a new STD the sexually active need to be aware of: mycoplasma genitalium, popularly known as MG.

As CNN reports, MG didn’t just appear overnight. Scientists have known about the bacterial infection since the 1980s, but in a new report published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, University College London researchers found that the infection is transmitted through unprotected sexual activity.

The team analyzed urine samples from over 4,500 UK participants ages 16 to 44, and found MG in 5% of male samples and 3% of female samples. It was discovered that MG is most likely to be present in the systems of people who had sex with more than four partners during the previous year.

So what do we know about MG?

Like many STDs, MG is often asymptomatic. The University College London researchers found that 94.4% of men and 56.2% of women with MG didn’t report any symptoms.  MG can cause urethra infections in men  (those symptoms include watery discharge from the penis and a burning sensation during urination,) and cervix infections in women (symptoms include abnormal vaginal discharge, a burning sensation during urination, pain during vaginal intercourse, and bleeding after intercourse).

As Bustle reports, left untreated in women, the infection in the cervix could spread to the Fallopian tubes, and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which could in turn lead to an ectopic or tubal pregnancy, possibly even infertility.

Can you get tested for MG? You can, but you may not get the results back as quick as a test for another STD, because fewer labs offer the test. But it’s important to get tested, especially if you are experiencing the above symptoms, and tests for other STDs are coming back negative.

Luckily, there is a treatment, the antibiotic azithromycin, which is the same antibiotic you would take if you came down with a case of strep throat.

And how does one go about avoiding contracting MG to begin with? As with most STDs, condoms are still going to be your best bet here.

So, yes, it’s more than a little unnerving knowing there’s another STD to worry about, but we are breathing a little easier knowing that this one is testable, treatable, and by and large preventable.

(Image via Shutterstock.)

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