An STI That You Probably Don't Even Know About Is Becoming Common and Resistant to Medications

Australian health officials warn that mycoplasma genitalium is acting like a superbug. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

You've likely never heard of, or been tested for it, but a sexually transmitted infection that's fairly common could now be resistant to antibiotic medications. Mycoplasma genitalium, or MG, is not a new bacteria and was first identified in the 1980s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is more common than gonorrhea and chlamydia, though it's not as easily recognized as the other two.

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The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the country's healthcare professionals are concerned the bacteria is becoming resistant to antibiotics.

"It's essentially acting like a superbug, with research showing at least 50 percent of [infected] people have a drug-resistant MG, limiting their treatment options," Dr. Suzanne Garland, of The Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, told the outlet.

A new test will be given in hospitals and clinics across the country to screen patients, which will help medical professionals better identify how big a problem MG could be. Currently, there is not enough data to determine how many people are infected.

"In sexual health clinics, 10-35 percent of the people being tested have it," Garland told ABC.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve a test, according to the CDC, though a test is available that can detect the bacteria's presence. The CDC does not recommend testing those who do not show any signs of being infected. Little is known about MG but symptoms are subtle and include an infection in the urethra for men, typically exhibited by burning while peeing. In women, MG is linked to abnormal discharge and bleeding after sex due to pelvic inflammatory disease, reported Live Science.

"Most of the research that's going on now is trying to better understand the implications of [M. genitalium] infection in women," Epidemiologist Lisa Manhart, of the University of Washington in Seattle, told Live Science.

Few may know about MG partly because it's only recently been understood to be transmitted through sex. A study in 2015 found that it was associated with people who reported riskier sexual behavior, like unsafe sex and having more partners. The research surveyed attitudes and behavior about sex among more than 4,500 British adults. Scientists found that men diagnosed with MG were more likely to have previously had gonorrhea or syphilis. Females with MG were likely to have previously contracted trichomoniasis, an STI that causes burning and pain in the genitals.

To make it worse, it's also becoming resistant to #Antibiotics. #mycoplasmagenitalium #MG #STI

— whimn_au (@whimn_au) January 18, 2018

The researchers concluded their study "strengthens evidence that MG is an STI. MG was identified in over 1 percent of the population, including in men with high-risk behaviors in older age groups that are often not included in STI prevention measures."

As with all STIs, the best way to avoid contracting MG is by using protection.