Should we screen for the sexually-transmitted infection Mycoplasma genitalium? Evidence synthesis using a transmission-dynamic model

Ruthie Birger*, John Saunders, Claudia Estcourt, Andrew John Sutton, Catherine H. Mercer, Tracy Roberts, Peter J. White

*Corresponding author for this work

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    24 Citations (Scopus)


    There is increasing concern about Mycoplasma genitalium as a cause of urethritis, cervicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility and ectopic pregnancy. Commercial nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) are becoming available, and their use in screening for M. genitalium has been advocated, but M. genitalium's natural history is poorly-understood, making screening's effectiveness unclear. We used a transmission-dynamic compartmental model to synthesise evidence from surveillance data and epidemiological and behavioural studies to better understand M. genitalium's natural history, and then examined the effects of implementing NAAT testing. Introducing NAAT testing initially increases diagnoses, by finding a larger proportion of infections; subsequently the diagnosis rate falls, due to reduced incidence. Testing only symptomatic patients finds relatively little infection in women, as a large proportion is asymptomatic. Testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients has a much larger impact and reduces cumulative PID incidence in women due to M. genitalium by 31.1% (95% range:13.0%-52.0%) over 20 years. However, there is important uncertainty in M. genitalium's natural history parameters, leading to uncertainty in the absolute reduction in PID and sequelae. Empirical work is required to improve understanding of key aspects of M. genitalium's natural history before it will be possible to determine the effectiveness of screening.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number16162
    JournalScientific Reports
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    We thank Geraldine Leong, Public Health England, for supplying surveillance data; Jorgen Skov Jensen, Mycoplasma Laboratory, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen S, Denmark for advice on parameter values, and Lorna Sutcliffe, Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, Barts Sexual Health Centre. We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This paper presents independent research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Programme Grants for Applied Research scheme (RP-PG-0707-10208). PJW also thanks the UK Medical Research Council for Centre funding (MR/K010174/1) and the UK National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Modelling Methodology at Imperial College London in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) for funding (HPRU-2012-10080). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Department of Health, the NHS, the NIHR, or Public Health England.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2017 The Author(s).


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