What is the role of ureaplasma in UTIs?

Ureaplasma bacteria

By Board Certified Urologist, Dr. Yana Barbalat

 

Ureaplasma is a bacterium that is sometimes found in the vagina. This bacterium typically comes from a current or previous sexual partner and lives in the vagina along with the other bacteria that co-exist in there, often not causing any symptoms or long-term issues.  Standard urine and vaginal cultures do not detect this bacterium because it is very difficult to culture, and because of this, most patients do not even know that they have ureaplasma in their genital and urinary tract. 

 

However, occasionally, ureaplasma does get into the urinary tract and can cause urgency, frequency, urethral and bladder pain, and inflammation in those patients. This can be very frustrating because standard urine cultures do not detect this organism and patients are told they do not have a UTI, when they actually do! As someone who sees many patients with UTIs, I often send out a special test to detect the genetic material of ureaplasma in the urine. That way, I can treat patients who have persistent UTI symptoms despite “negative” urine cultures. 

 

The good news is that once the ureaplasma is identified, it is very treatable. Sexual partners should be treated as well, since the bacterium can be present without causing any symptoms in many people. If the sexual partner is not treated, a re-infection is likely.  



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