Ureaplasma is a commensal infection in most people, which means it can exist without causing symptoms in healthy individuals. Besides being a sexually transmitted infection, it can also be an opportunistic infection.
Despite decades of research, we still do not understand the infection well, though it was discovered in 1954. There are some similarities between Mycoplasma hominins and Mycoplasma genitalium, which belong to the Mycoplasma family.
As with other bacteria, Ureaplasmas produce signature antibodies in their hosts. Based on their antibody response, 14 different types of ureaplasma have been identified in humans. A total of 14 serotypes of Ureaplasmas have been categorized into two species, Ureaplasma parvum (serotypes 1, 3, 6 and 14) and Ureaplasma urealyticum (remaining 10 serotypes).
What is Ureaplasma?
Human respiratory and urogenital tract mucus membranes are normally inhabited by tiny bacteria known as ureaplasma. They are prokaryotes, the smallest free-living organisms without a defined cell wall, belonging to the Mycoplasma class of bacteria.
They show negative gram stains and are resistant to widely prescribed antimicrobial agents, such as beta-lactams, due to the absence of a proper cell wall and biofilm-forming ability.
Normal healthy individuals can detect ureaplasma in their lower urinary tracts. Invasive bacteria can enter the deeper layers of mucosa when they multiply in large quantities, resulting in huge colonies.
As a result, susceptible populations are exposed to opportunistic infections. The infection of ureaplasma is not typically associated with sexually transmitted diseases, but it can be transmitted through sexual contact.
Causes of Ureaplasma:
The ureaplasma species is one of the most common species of bacteria. Humans are commonly infected with two species of Ureaplasma, U. urealyticum and U. parvum. The disruption caused by one species may be greater than that caused by the other, but studies report conflicting results. Neutral or disruptive effects can be achieved by both species.
Ureaplasma belongs to the same class as Mycoplasma and shares this pathogen’s absence of cell walls, making it notoriously challenging to identify and treat.
Symptoms of Ureaplasma:
Ureaplasma most frequently affects patients who have no symptoms. Both men and women may develop urethritis as a result of ureaplasma, which has the potential to inflame the urethra. The following are a few signs of urethritis:
- Unusual discharge.
- Pain during urination.
- Burning sensation.
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Ureaplasma can also result in bacterial vaginosis in females, which can manifest itself in a variety of ways.
- Vaginal discharge that is watery.
- The vagina emits an unpleasant odor.
- Vaginal itching.
- Occasionally discharges a green or gray color.
Additionally, ureaplasma can raise the risk of various other illnesses, including:
- Premature labor.
- Kidney stones.
- Respiratory problems in infants.
How is ureaplasma transmitted?
One of the most prevalent microorganisms known to cause human urogenital infections, including nongonococcal urethritis in men and pregnancy complications in women, is ureaplasma. According to studies, 25% of postmenopausal women, 67.5% of sexually active women of reproductive age, and 40.5% of inactive women have bacteria in their vaginal flora.
Despite being primarily transmitted through sexual contact, ureaplasma is not typically thought of as an STD. If a mother contracts ureaplasma during pregnancy, there is a greater chance that the infection will be transmitted to the fetus or newborn during labor.
It has been discovered that ureaplasma is present in the cervical or vaginal secretions of about 80% of healthy women and that the prevalence rises with increased sexual activity. According to research, women who had more sexual partners were more likely to develop ureaplasma infections in their vaginas.
Effect on Fertility:
The connection between infertility and ureaplasma has received very little attention from studies or research. Even those studies have failed to provide any clear evidence. However, the bacteria ureaplasma has been found in both men and women who have experienced infertility.
Medical professionals have hypothesized that the bacteria may be affecting both the quantity and quality of sperm in males. Women who experience unexplained infertility frequently develop the ureaplasma urealyticum, a specific type of ureaplasma.
In general, 15% of all male infertility cases are caused by genital tract infections. The sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia and gonorrhea are also to blame for these infections, in addition to ureaplasma.
Ureaplasma, however, has been found to significantly raise the risk of preterm delivery, according to research findings. The ureaplasma is just one complex event in a long chain of complex events, not the cause of preterm delivery.
Inflammation of the reproductive tissues is the main cause of preterm delivery. Numerous causes, such as bacterial infections in the cervix, vagina, or amniotic sac, can contribute to this inflammation. Preterm labor is one of the serious complications caused by ureaplasma during pregnancy.
- Low birth weight
- Intra-amniotic infection
- Early fetal membrane rupture
- Invasion of the womb
The risk of postpartum endometritis, which is nothing more than an inflammation of the uterus following delivery, has also been linked to ureaplasma.
Complications of Ureaplasma:
When left untreated, ureaplasma could result in various complications which are given below:
- Rupturing of the vagina.
- Premature birth.
- Placenta invasion.
- Lung infection in infants.
- Meningitis (injury of the brain).
- Uterine membrane rupture.
- The infant’s small weight right after birth.
Diagnosis of Ureaplasma:
Many doctors don’t perform tests for Ureaplasma. A sample can be taken by doctors and sent to a lab if you are having symptoms and all other issues have been ruled out. Any of the subsequent tests may be used to assist in the diagnosis of ureaplasma:
- cervical swab
- urine sample
- endometrial swab
- an endometrial biopsy
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Treatment of Ureaplasma:
A course of antibiotics that are efficient against the bacteria is typically used as the treatment. When selecting antibiotics for infants or pregnant women, caution should be exercised.
Treatment for ureaplasma includes:
- The bacteria can cause urinary tract infections and genital tract infections, which can be treated with antibiotics, such as azithromycin or doxycycline. Alternatively, erythromycin or fluoroquinolones can be used to treat drug-resistant bacteria.
- It may be possible to treat newborns with ureaplasma lung manifestations with erythromycin.
- The treatment of premature rupture of membranes in pregnant women can be accomplished with macrolide antibiotics, such as clarithromycin, azithromycin, and erythromycin.
Prevention of Ureaplasma:
Ureaplasma transmission can only be prevented by abstaining from sexual contact. People who have never had sex can also be colonized with Ureaplasma. The ureaplasma bacteria are opportunistic bacteria, which means they can be found both in healthy individuals and in those with certain illnesses.
When the immune system weakens due to illness, stress, or any other opportunity, opportunistic bacteria can multiply and invade the body.
Preventing these situations may be possible by treating medical conditions and visiting a doctor regularly.