Mycoplasma: Types (Respiratory & Genital), Symptoms & Prevention

Updated in December 2023

Mycoplasma is a bacteria that causes infections in the respiratory tract, urinary tract or genitals. A mycoplasma infection is associated with symptoms such as discharge, pain when urinating, joint pain, pain during sexual intercourse, fever and bleeding outside the menstrual period, in the case of women.

Mycoplasma is classified into Mycoplasma hominis, Mycoplasma genitalium and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which vary in the form of transmission and the type of infection they cause.

A mycoplasma diagnosis must be made by an infectious disease specialist or general practitioner, through a symptom assessmnet and diagnostic testing and tests such as chest x-ray, sputum bacteria culture or throat swabs, or blood work.

Imagem ilustrativa número 1

Types of mycoplasma

The different types of mycoplasma include:

1. Mycoplasma pneumoniae

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a bacterium transmitted from person to person, through droplets of saliva, and can cause infections in the respiratory tract, such as atypical pneumonia and bronchitis.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae can also cause extrapulmonary diseases such as immune thrombocytopenic purpura, acute hepatitis, hemolytic anemia, and arthritis.

Main symptoms: The most common symptoms of this type of Mycoplasma are sore throat, tiredness, fever, headache, shortness of breath. Children under 5 years of age may experience sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, watery eyes, vomiting and diarrhea.

Treatment: In most cases, treatment involves the use of prescription antibiotics. Tetracycline is typically the antibiotic that is prescribed.

2. Mycoplasma hominis

Mycoplasma hominis is a bacteria that is found in the urinary tract and genitals and is usually transmitted sexually. It particularly causes infections in people who are immunocompromised. Mycoplasma hominis can be transmitted from mother to baby during birth, especially to premature babies.

This type of mycoplasma can cause genital and urinary problems, including neonatal infections, infertility, septic arthritis, urethral inflammation, pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginosis, cervicitis, central nervous system infections and endocarditis.

Main symptoms: Symptoms of Mycoplasma hominis vary depending on the region affected by this bacteria, and may include discharge, pain when urinating, urgency to urinate in men, joint pain and pelvic pain in women.

Treatment: Treatment varies depending on the type of infection caused by mycoplasma. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics such as tetracycline, moxifloxacin, clindamycin, doxycycline and azithromycin.

Infections that cause abscesses may require drainage and debridement, which is a procedure to remove pus or necrotic and infected tissue from wounds. This helps promote healing and prevent the infection from spreading to other regions of the body. 

3. Mycoplasma genitalium

Mycoplasma genitalium is another bacteria that can be transmitted through unprotected sex, causing sexually transmitted infections in men and women. 

Main symptoms: The main symptoms of a Mycoplasma genitalium infection are pain and burning when urinating, pain during sex, fever, vaginal or penile discharge, and bleeding outside of menstruation.

Treatment: Treatment should be started as soon as possible, and should also be completed by the patient's sexual partner. It is also recommended to avoid sex during treatment to prevent re-infection.

Prevention measures

There is no vaccine available to prevent mycoplasma infections caused by mycoplasma. You can take steps to protect yourself and others from bacteria by:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Covering your mouth and nose when playing or sneezing;
  • Avoiding large crowds, especially if you are immunocompromised
  • Avoiding smoking

Also, use condoms during sexual intercourse and it also helps prevent Mycoplasma.