Recent research has found that the bacterial infection, Mycoplasma genitalium, an infection which can be transmitted sexually, increased the risk of African women becoming infected with HIV.
The Mycoplasma Genitalium bacterium was only discovered in 1980 and research into this relatively new infection is on-going. Previous data from a bigger study of HIV in women from Zimbabwe and Uganda was used in order to assess the effects of M. genitalium on the risk of contracting HIV. At the study’s outset, the women were all HIV free. It was discovered that 190 women from the study group had become infected with HIV after follow-up meetings. These women and the women who were not infected were tested for the bacterial infection M. genitalium and it was found that the infection was present in 15% of the women who went on to develop HIV as opposed to 6.5% among the women who did not go on to contract HIV.
The presence of other STIs, and especially infections such as herpes simplex II, also increased the risk of contracting HIV. M. genitalium was however more commonly detected in this particular study than other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea.
Much research is being carried out in the area of M. genitalium as there is still little known about this infection. The NHS does not test for it in their GUM clinics at the current time. A short course of antibiotics can eliminate the infection. We always advise patients who are having symptoms to have a full screen but maybe getting tested for Mycoplasma Genitalium as part of a routine STI check-up should be the norm as its prevalence increases.