Ureaplasma is a group of bacteria that usually live in the urinary tract and the reproductive parts of humans. It is a parasite that needs a host, such as an animal or a human being in order to stay alive.
Ureaplasma is usually a part of all the bacteria that live on the body, and they mostly live there without causing any issues. Sometimes it happens that they multiply in great numbers, which disrupts the delicate balance and causes infections and other health-related issues. It is a part of Mycoplasma, which is a class of bacteria. In the biological term, Ureaplasma is a bacteria belonging to the Ureaplasma genus from the family of Mycoplasmataceae. In their species, Mycoplasma are the smallest organisms that are known to humans. They are capable of replicating in order to reproduce.
One of the unique things about Ureaplasma is that this type of bacteria does not come with a cell wall. Existing without a cell wall means that it does not respond to antibiotics such as Penicillin like other bacteria do. However, Ureaplasma can be treated with other types of antibiotics.
Ureaplasma lives in the body of some people without them being aware of it. It is notorious for causing problems related to the reproductive system of both men and women. Additionally, Ureaplasma can also affect the newly born babies if the bacteria is passed onto them during childbirth.
How is it Transmitted?
The mode of transmission for Ureaplasma is through having sexual intercourse with an infected person. According to one study done by the Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology, 2015 some vaginal infections caused by Ureaplasma were found to be much higher in women that had many partners. Apart from that, if the mother catches the infection during pregnancy, it can be transmitted to the baby during childbirth or in the womb.
Another study published on PubMed Central, 2010, proposed that Ureaplasma was also detected in women that had never had sex. Due to these reasons, the exact cause related to the presence of Ureaplasma may remain a mystery in certain cases.
Symptoms Related to Ureaplasma
Ureaplasma does not cause any issues as long as it lives in harmony with the other bacterial population found in the body. The problems arise when these start to abnormally increase in number as compared to the others disrupting the balance. The immune system of the human body is capable of preventing any infections arising in the body, whether it is due to Ureaplasma or any other organism. As soon as the population of Ureaplasma starts augmenting in the body, the problems start.
The most commonly seen signs and symptoms of Ureaplasma are as below; if anyone is experiencing these, they should consult a doctor as soon as possible. However, it is worth noting that Ureaplasma may not be the only culprit in causing these symptoms, as there might be some other possible causes.
Infertility means when a couple is trying to have a baby for some time without any success. The most common thing between both infertile men and women is the presence of Ureaplasma in their bodies. In men, Ureaplasma hinders the movement of sperm and also its count. In women, Ureaplasma causes infections that make it hard for them to conceive.
One study published in Springer Science+Business Media, 2009 cites that in women that suffer from infertility that does not have a definite reason behind it, in those women Ureaplasma urealyticum a type of Ureaplasma is most commonly found. Therefore if a woman is suffering from unexplained infertility, they should get tested for this bacteria.
Among men, 15 per cent of all infertility cases are caused by an infection of the genital tract. However, not all of these infections are caused by Ureaplasma. Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea.and chlamydia cause a lot of such cases of infertility.
One review of scientific research published in 2015 stated that most cases of infertility in men were associated with U. urealyticum. However, the Ureaplasma parvum was not seen to cause infertility in men.
Discharge, pain, and itching in the genitals
Infection due to Ureaplasma can result in certain conditions that cause discomfort and pain in and around the genitals. These may include:
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vagina. In this, the person might feel pain and sting during urinating, itching in and around the genitals, and very smelly and abnormal discharge oozing out of the vagina. Learn more about Bacterial Vaginosis at our Bacterial vaginosis FAQ section.
Pain in the abdominal area or pelvis
Ureaplasma is also seen to cause pain in the groin, abdominal, and pelvic areas. These consist of:
- Prostatitis: Prostatitis causes the prostate gland to be inflamed. It might cause a stinging sensation while urinating, an urgent need to urinate, cloudy urine, blood in the urine, pain in the genitals.
- Endometritis: Endometritis causes the lining of the womb to get inflamed. Its symptoms are fever, unusual discharge, abnormal bleeding from the vagina, pain in the pelvis. Although Endometritis can also be caused by other types of bacteria, one study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 2003 has linked Ureaplasma to Endometritis.
- Kidney Stones: In certain individuals, the formation of kidney stones has been linked to Ureaplasma infection. Kidney stones are very painful, and they cause extreme pain in the abdominal area, the pelvis, the lower back, and causes fever, along with difficulty in peeing, very smelly, bloody, and cloudy urine.
Urethritis causes the urethra to become inflamed. It is through the urethra that urine is dispelled out of the body. In Urethritis, a person can feel a burning and stinging sensation while urinating along with pain. Additionally, there can also be itching and smelly, abnormal discharge.
Most of the health care providers do not screen for Ureaplasma infection. Regarding the symptoms, if every other issue has been ruled out, doctors test for the infection via a swab sample. The following tests can be done if a person is exhibiting the signs and symptoms of Ureaplasma.
- Swab sample from the cervix
- Sample of the urine
- The swab of the endometrial lining
- Endometrial biopsy
Since Ureaplasma bacteria do not have a cell wall, it does not respond well to certain antibiotics. However, some antibiotics are used to treat this infection. These antibiotics are prescribed, keeping in mind who it is for and also the health problems of that person. This is done as some antibiotics can cause problems for expecting mothers and their babies.
Infections of the genital area and the urinary tract are treated with doxycycline or azithromycin. If these do not help, then other medications like fluoroquinolones or erythromycin might also be used. For newborn babies that are dealing with lung problems, erythromycin may be prescribed—expecting mothers that have early ruptured membranes may be prescribed with macrolide antibiotics.
The antibiotics consist of erythromycin, clarithromycin, erythromycin, and azithromycin. If a newborn baby is treated with the help of antibiotics, the risk of developing infection regarding Ureaplasma may be greatly reduced.
Preventing Ureaplasma infection
Abstaining from sex is the only sure-shot way of preventing infections by Ureaplasma. Along with that, using protection in the form of condoms can also prevent Ureaplasma infection along with Sexually transmitted diseases. In this regard, some people are of the notion that birth control prevents sexually transmitted diseases. They do not. In order to prevent these infections, only condoms and dental dams are effective.
Ureaplasma Affecting Fertility
Ureaplasma has been linked to premature birth. However, it is not the only factor that causes it. The most common cause of premature birth is an infection of the tissues found in the reproductive organs. These include infections caused by bacteria in the amniotic sac, the vagina and the cervix. There has been researching going on by doctors to find a link between inflammation and Ureaplasma infection.
There are different types of Ureaplasma that are linked to the following complications, including:
- Early rupturing of the fetal membrane
- Premature labor
- intra-amniotic infection
- The low weight of the baby at birth
- Placental invasion
Ureaplasma infection has also been linked to the increased risk of developing postpartum Endometritis, which causes the uterus to get inflamed. So far, the doctors have not been able to find a definite link to this.
Ureaplasma During Pregnancy Affecting Mother and Baby
Ureaplasma infection is seen to affect those babies that are born prematurely. Newborn babies may develop the following symptoms of it :
- Brain injury and Meningitis
- Breathing issues and injury to the lungs
The Ureaplasma infection can also be passed on from an infected mother to the fetus in the womb. In that case, the following can occur:
- Rupture of the membranes prematurely
- Risk of miscarriage
- The risk of premature birth
- Risk of stillbirth
To reduce the chances of these pregnant women need to be tested and treated for Ureaplasma infection.
Ureaplasma is found in the body of humans naturally, and these do not cause any problems unless something makes them replicate faster, in which case the balance of the bacterial population in the body is disrupted. The only situation you need to be bothered with is when it is present in the body while you are pregnant.
It is yet to be decided by the doctors whether women that are expecting need to be screened and treated for this sort of infection or not. If someone is worried about developing some sort of complication related to pregnancy, they should have a word with their doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will help them with deciding on the available options.
- Symptoms & Diagnosis: Healthline.com & WebMD
- National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health