Ureaplasma is a type of tiny bacteria residing extracellularly as a normal habitant in the mucus membrane of the human respiratory and urogenital tract. They are prokaryotes that belong to a class of bacteria called Mycoplasma, the smallest free-living organisms that lack a definite cell wall. The absence of a proper cell wall and biofilm-forming ability makes them unique among other species of bacteria because they show negative gram stain and resistance to widely prescribed antimicrobial agents, such as beta-lactams.
Ureaplasma is detected normally in the balance of the lower urinary tract of healthy people. However, when they multiply in large quantities, producing huge colonies of bacteria, they may invade into the deeper layers of mucosae. This causes opportunistic infections in susceptible populations. Ureaplasma is not a typical sexually transmitted infection or STD, but it can be transmitted through sexual contact.
How is ureaplasma transmitted?
Ureaplasma is recognized as one of the most common bacteria responsible for causing human urogenital infections, including nongonococcal urethritis in men and pregnancy complications in women. Studies have detected the presence of bacteria in the vaginal flora of 40 percent of sexually inactive and 67 percent of sexually active women of reproductive age and 25 percent of postmenopausal women. The main transmission route of ureaplasma is sexual contact but it is not considered a classic sexually transmitted infection or STD. There is an increased chance of passing the infection to a fetus or newborn during labor if the mother gets a ureaplasma infection during pregnancy.
Approximately 80 percent of healthy women are found to have ureaplasma in their cervical or vaginal secretions, and the prevalence tends to be higher with increased sexual activity. It has been noted that vaginal infections with ureaplasma were higher among women who had multiple sexual partners.
What are the signs and symptoms of ureaplasma?
When the population of ureaplasma starts augmenting more than the normal flora, it damages tissues eliciting the immune response against them, leading to certain signs and symptoms, such as:
- Intense pain during urination
- A burning sensation in the urethra (the tube-like structure through which urine is discharged from the bladder) or the vaginal area
- Vaginal discharge
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling near the opening of the urethra
- Pain or odor from the discharge
They predispose an individual to certain conditions, such as:
They can increase complications in pregnancy by accelerating the onset of certain conditions, such as:
How is ureaplasma diagnosed?
The following diagnostic tests are usually done if a person is showing the signs and symptoms of ureaplasma:
- Swab sample from the cervix
- Urine sample examination
- The swab of the endometrial lining
- Endometrial biopsy
How is ureaplasma treated?
The treatment normally involves using a course of antibiotics that are effective against the bacteria. Care should be taken while choosing antibiotics for pregnant women or newborns.
Treatment for ureaplasma may include:
- Antibiotics, such as azithromycin or doxycycline, can be used for the treatment of urinary tract infections or genital tract infections caused by the bacteria. For drug-resistant bacteria, other classes of drugs, such as erythromycin or fluoroquinolones, can be used.
- Newborns with lung manifestations caused by ureaplasma infection could be treated with erythromycin.
- Pregnant women who have premature rupture of membranes could be treated with macrolide antibiotics, such as clarithromycin, azithromycin, and erythromycin.
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