Ureaplasma

Overview

Ureaplasma is a bacterium that can be passed through sexual contact although it is not considered a classic STI or STD because of its low degree of pathogenicity. The two species are Parvum and Urealyticum.

It is estimated that quite a large proportion of the sexually active population is infected with Ureaplasma without it causing any problems whatsoever. We do however dispute claims that over 70% of the UK population has this infection. Having processed thousands of urine samples over the years, it is nowhere near this level!


Symptoms

Most people do not have any symptoms whatsoever and there is no evidence that Ureaplasma has any long term health consequences for those who are asymptomatic. Where symptoms are present, these include:

  • Burning sensation when passing urine
  • Urethral irritation
  • Unusual vaginal discharge in women
  • Urethral discharge in men

We sometimes encounter female patients who have experienced chronic cystitis/urinary tract infections that show no evidence on a culture of any bacterial organisms. When we test the urine for Ureaplasma using PCR we then find it to be present; so we believe that Ureaplasma can be implicated in such cases.


When to see a doctor

Generally we would advise that Ureaplasma is nothing to worry about although if an infection is causing outward symptoms, we would recommend a course of antibiotics. If one partner is having symptoms then we recommend treatment of the consort as the bacteria can be passed through sexual contact.

The jury is still out on whether Ureaplasma can cause long term problems but there is no real evidence to substantiate some of the scare stories on the internet. We recommend that you do not read websites that have no medical backing as there is information out there that is unsupported by empirical evidence.

 


Risk factors

Factors that increase your risk of chlamydia trachomatis include:

  • Being sexually active before age 25
  • Multiple sex partners within the past year
  • Not using a condom consistently
  • History of prior sexually transmitted infection

Prevention

  • Use condoms. Use a male latex condom or a female polyurethane condom during each sexual contact. Condoms used properly during every sexual encounter reduce but don't eliminate the risk of infection.
  • Limit your number of sex partners. Having multiple sex partners puts you at a high risk of contracting chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Get regular screenings. If you're sexually active, particularly if you have multiple partners, talk with your doctor about how often you should be screened for chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Avoid douching. Douching isn't recommended because it decreases the number of good bacteria present in the vagina, which may increase the risk of infection.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Further Reading: Position Statement on Ureaplasma and Mycoplasma by European STI Guideline Board

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