Mycoplasma refers to a group of bacteria that can cause infections in humans. The most common types of Mycoplasma bacteria that affect humans are Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Mycoplasma genitalium. Here’s some information about each:
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae: This bacterium is a common cause of respiratory tract infections, particularly atypical pneumonia. It spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections often present with symptoms such as a persistent cough, sore throat, fever, fatigue, and chest discomfort. Treatment typically involves antibiotics such as macrolides (e.g., azithromycin) or tetracyclines (e.g., doxycycline).
- Mycoplasma genitalium: This bacterium is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that primarily affects the genital tract. It can cause conditions such as urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and other reproductive complications. Some individuals with Mycoplasma genitalium may not experience symptoms, while others may have symptoms such as abnormal genital discharge, pain or discomfort during urination or sex and pelvic pain. Testing for Mycoplasma genitalium is typically performed using molecular techniques like polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Treatment usually involves antibiotics such as azithromycin or moxifloxacin, although antibiotic resistance can be a concern.
Testing for Mycoplasma infections typically involves laboratory tests that can detect the presence of the bacteria or their genetic material. Here are two common tests used for diagnosing Mycoplasma infections:
- Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs): NAATs are highly sensitive and specific tests that detect the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of the bacteria. For Mycoplasma genitalium, NAATs are the preferred diagnostic method. A sample is usually collected from the affected area, such as a urethral swab for males or a cervical swab for females. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis, and the presence of Mycoplasma genetic material is detected using techniques like polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
- Serological tests: Serological tests involve checking for the presence of antibodies against Mycoplasma bacteria in the blood. These tests are more commonly used for diagnosing Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections, particularly for atypical pneumonia cases. A blood sample is collected, and the presence of specific antibodies is determined through techniques like enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Serological tests can indicate a past or recent infection with Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect a Mycoplasma infection. They will assess your symptoms, perform a physical examination and determine the appropriate tests needed for diagnosis. Treatment should be based on the test results and guidance from a healthcare provider.