Ureaplasma is a bacterium that can be passed through sexual contact although it is not considered a classic STI or STD because of its low degree of pathogenicity. The two species are Parvum and Urealyticum.
It is estimated that quite a large proportion of the sexually active population is infected with Ureaplasma without it causing any problems whatsoever. We do however dispute claims that over 70% of the UK population has this infection. Having processed thousands of urine samples over the years, it is nowhere near this level!
Most people do not have any symptoms whatsoever and there is no evidence that Ureaplasma has any long term health consequences for those who are asymptomatic. Where symptoms are present, these include:
Burning sensation when passing urine
Unusual vaginal discharge in women
Urethral discharge in men
We sometimes encounter female patients who have experienced chronic cystitis/urinary tract infections that show no evidence on a culture of any bacterial organisms. When we test the urine for Ureaplasma using PCR we then find it to be present; so we believe that Ureaplasma can be implicated in such cases. Furthermore, complications of ureaplasma infections can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and infertility.
Generally we would advise that Ureaplasma is nothing to worry about although if an infection is causing outward symptoms, we would recommend a course of antibiotics. If one partner is having symptoms then we recommend treatment of the consort as the bacteria can be passed through sexual contact.
The jury is still out on whether Ureaplasma can cause long term problems but there is no real evidence to substantiate some of the scare stories on the internet. We recommend that you do not read websites that have no medical backing as there is information out there that is unsupported by empirical evidence.
It is possible to test for Ureaplasma using a urine sample or a vaginal swab. The urine sample or swab from throat and rectum are subjected to a PCR test that looks for the DNA of the bacteria. So long as the bacteria are present in the urine sample or swab (which they will be if you are infected and you take the sample as directed) then this test will produce a positive result. The Ureaplasma test, results normally takes 36 hours to process. If you have symptoms then we recommend a wider screen such as our Full STI Screen, which tests for 7 infections that can cause the same symptoms as Ureaplasma.
Fortunately, in most cases, Ureaplasma is easy to treat. If you wish to be retested then we recommend waiting at least 3 weeks after treatment has been completed. Some people continue to experience symptoms after the infection has been cleared but these symptoms will disappear with time.