Thousands could be carrying sexually transmitted 'superbug' in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 14:30 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:51 14 August 2018
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Thousands of people in Suffolk could be carrying a new sexually transmitted ‘superbug’ in what experts have described as a ‘public health emergency waiting to happen’.
Mycoplasma genitalium, known as MG, affects between 1% and 2% of the population and can make women infertile, according to the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH).
However, tests to diagnose the disease, which can display no symptoms, are not routinely available and it is often misdiagnosed as different diseases such as chlamydia.
But treatment for chlamydia is ineffective against MG, leading doctors to warn that the infection could become resistant to antibiotics and untreatable within a decade if steps are not taken to tackle it.
Data from Public Health England shows that 1,624 people in Suffolk were diagnosed with chlamydia last year alone however, this accounts for just 0.2% of the adults in the area - meaning many cases of MG or chlamydia are likely to be undiagnosed.
Guidelines for how to tackle MG has now been issued the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, although seven out of 10 sexual health experts across the county said they were not able to afford the diagnostic tests recommended by the guidelines, according to BASHH.
This has led to concerns the disease could be mistreated and will become resistant to antibiotics.
If this happens, BASHH says up to 3,000 women a year nationally who have pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) caused by MG could be at risk of infertility.
Paddy Horner, spokesman for BASHH said: “MG is treated with antibiotics, but as until recently there has been no commercially available test, it has often been misdiagnosed as chlamydia and treated as such.
“This is not curing the infection and is causing antimicrobial resistance in MG patients.
“If practices do not change and the tests are not used, MG has the potential to become a superbug within a decade, resistant to standard antibiotics.
“The greatest consequence of this is for the women who present with PID caused by MG, which would be very hard to treat, putting them at increased risk of infertility.
“These new guidelines have been developed because we can’t afford to continue with the approach we have followed for the past 15 years, as this will undoubtedly lead to a public health emergency with the emergence of MG as a superbug.”
BASHH has also called on the government to make more funding available to sexual health clinics to tackle the disease.
Abdul Razaq, Director of Public Health for Suffolk County Council, said: “In Suffolk, our integrated sexual and reproductive health provider (iCaSH) are undertaking a pilot across all localities to test for mycoplasma genitalium (MG) amongst clinically appropriate patients.
“This pilot has been in place since March 2018.
“I would urge anyone with symptoms of an STI, or suspected symptoms of an STI to get tested at your local sexual health clinic. If anyone suspects they have specific MG symptoms then this should be raised with the clinic.
“You can reduce the risk from contracting a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) by using a condom when having sex, especially with any new or casual partners.
“Details of where you can go locally for testing can be found on the iCAsh Suffolk website or by calling them on 0300 123 3650.”