Good question! Ureaplasma and Gardnerella are bacteria that can sometimes be picked up on test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs need to be treated as they can cause more serious long term negative effects on health and wellbeing. Some of these infections, for example, Chlamydia, can cause infertility and some can even increase the likelihood of you getting other infections. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule, and Ureaplasma and Gardneralla are just a few of these!
Ureaplasma is a group of tiny bacteria that inhabit the respiratory and urogenital (urinary and reproductive) tract. Ureaplasma is often a part of the human microbiome, which consists of trillions of tiny cells that live in and on the human body. These tiny organisms help you digest food, fight infections, and maintain reproductive health. Sometimes typically harmless bacteria overgrow and inflame healthy tissues. This creates a colony of bacteria that can lead to infection.
How do you get it?
Ureaplasma is typically transmitted through sexual contact. It’s very common among sexually active adults. It can enter the body through the vagina or the urethra. Ureaplasma can also be passed from mother to child.
What are the symptoms?
Most people with a Ureaplasma infection don’t experience any symptoms. Sometimes these typically harmless bacteria can overgrow and cause inflammation of healthy tissues, for example, Ureaplasma infection can cause inflammation in the urethra. This is called urethritis. Both men and women may experience the following symptoms of Urethritis: pain during urination, burning sensation, and discharge. Ureaplasma is also a possible cause of bacterial vaginosis (see below).
Ureaplasma can sometimes be picked up on a vaginal swab for and STI check. It does not need to be treated unless you have symptoms of an infection (as described above).
Gardnerella vaginalis is another bacteria that can live inside the reproductive tract, typically, the vagina. It’s part of what’s known as your microbiome or vaginal flora. Your vaginal flora is made up of different varieties of bacteria that coexist in a delicate balance to keep your vagina healthy. Gardnerella is a bacteria that coexists alongside other bacteria in your vagina to keep it infection-free. When too much Gardnerella bacteria grows, you can develop an infection called BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS (BV). Symptoms of BV can include watery vaginal discharge, unpleasant vaginal odour.
Gardnerella can sometimes be picked up on a vaginal swab for an STI check. It does not need to be treated unless you have symptoms of an infection also known as Bacterial Vaginosis.
Reference: British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) guidelines