Summer of love? Protect yourself against 'superbug' STI, experts urge
Whether you're heading abroad this year or just staying in the UK for this golden summer, it may be that you're looking forward to some great dates that could lead to a bit of fun between the sheets.
While this is perfectly OK, experts have reminded anyone thinking of engaging in sex with a new partner to protect themselves with condoms amid fears that a little-known sexually transmitted infection (STI) could become a superbug.
Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) was first identified way back in 1981, but it wasn't classified as an STI until 2015. It's a type of bacteria that can cause inflammation of the urethra in men that leads to a watery discharge and pain when urinating.
In women, it can also cause pain and bleeding, but its particular threat is inflammation and scarring of the womb and fallopian tubes that could cause infertility. The British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) fears that 3,000 women a year could lose their ability to have children if MG becomes untreatable.
And herein lies the problem: MG is becoming resistant to some of the antibiotics used to treat it and may turn into a superbug unless people are more vigilant and take precautions against it.
Because MG sometimes causes no symptoms, it may be missed by doctors and go untreated. In addition, it can easily be mistaken for Chlamydia and incorrectly treated.
Eradication rates with some drugs are already falling and although an antibiotic called azithromycin still usually works, the BASHH is concerned enough to have released new guidelines for healthcare providers and the public alike to raise awareness of MG.
Around one to two per cent of men and women are thought to be infected with MG in the UK and it is caught by having unprotected sex with someone who has it. Condoms are the best way to prevent its spread.
In other countries, antibiotic resistance may also be a problem and the BASHH fears holiday romances could fuel the spread of the STI - suddenly 'it's coming home' is far less appealing when used in this context.
Dr Peter Greenhouse, a member of BASHH, said: "It's about time the public learned about Mycoplasma genitalium. It's yet another good reason to pack the condoms for the summer holidays - and actually use them."
Dr Helen Fifer, consultant microbiologist at Public Health England, added: "Everyone can protect themselves from STIs by consistently and correctly using condoms with new and casual partners."
STIs have become a source of concern lately, as risky, unprotected sex seems to be on the rise. Last year, a Public Health England report found that almost half of 16 to 24-year-olds have had sex with a new partner without a condom.
It may be that the fear generated during the Aids crisis has abated now we know more about the illness and that it can be treated with anti-retroviral drugs, but there are many more STIs that we need to be protected from - and the best way to do that is with a simple condom.
We stock a range of condoms at low prices, including brands that are designed to feel like a second skin and so won't get in the way of your romantic encounters, so please make good use of them and help halt the rise of MG this summer.