These organisms have a special structure that makes them resistant to most typical antibiotics. They are often called “fastidious” or “atypical bacteria” for that reason. While they may be present normally in small numbers in humans and animals, they may cause infection, inflammation, or predispose to other types of infections. They are considered “opportunistic” in that they may create more symptoms when the person is stressed or has other infections or conditions that would allow the organism to grow unchecked. These organisms are related to (but not the same as) chlamydia so they have to be treated with special antibiotics.
Symptoms may include burning in the bladder, urethra or vagina, urinary urgency or frequency, abnormal discharge, superinfection (meaning additional infection) with other bacteria causing bacterial vaginosis, pelvic pain, abnormal odors, and refractory urinary tract infection symptoms not responding to typical antibiotics. Certain types of mycoplasma organisms have been associated with pneumonia (“walking pneumonia”) and other systemic infections, so that should be considered as well if there are symptoms unrelated to the bladder or genital tract.
While these organisms can be transmitted sexually, they are not only transmitted sexually. They have been found in the environment, in many animals and in individuals without symptoms. However, the number of these organisms is usually very low in someone without symptoms. This means that while it is possible to contract the organism without sex, it is definitely transmissible sexually so sexual partners should be treated to avoid “passing back and forth”. It is always important to communicate with your partner regarding this organism and the treatment, your symptoms, and what other potential partners either of you may have had. If you have never been tested for this organism it is impossible to determine with certainty when or how you were exposed to it. The most important thing to do is complete treatment and avoid new infections when possible. Being tested if you develop symptoms is also important.
Typical antibiotics used for the ureaplasma and mycoplasma organisms include the tetracyclines such as doxycycline, macrolides such as azithromycin, and if necessary, levofloxacin or moxifloxacin (fluoroquinolones).
Be sure to inform your doctor if you have allergies to medications and give a complete list of all medications and supplements that you take. All medications may have side effects, the best way to avoid them is to take antibiotics only when needed for the proper amount of time in the correct way.
Linda Kiley, MD
Dr. Kiley is a Board Certified subspecialist in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, and is also Board Certified in general Obstetrics and Gynecology.