Mycoplasma hominis is a type of bacterium that lives as a commensal in the human intestine. The germ can sometimes cause infections of the urinary tract.

What is Mycoplasma hominis?

Mycoplasma hominis is a member of the family Mycoplasmataceae. The mycoplasmas or mycoplasmas belong to the cell-wall-free bacteria and are related to the ureaplasmas.

The only reservoir is Mycoplasma hominis man. The bacterial species occurs, inter alia, in its intestinal flora. As it is close to the urogenital area, the pathogen triggers urinary tract disorders in some people.

The mycoplasmas belong to the class of mollicutes and have a very small genome. For this reason, they are also interesting for genetics. If Mycoplasma hominis or other mycoplasmas causes a disease, there is talk in medicine of a mycoplasma infection.

Occurrence, distribution & characteristics

Mycoplasmas are among the smallest types of bacteria. Thus, Mycoplasma hominis reaches only a size of 0.1 to 0.6 microns. The bacterium is endowed with both DNA and RNA. Although the mycoplasmas are considered to be extremely flexible, they have only a low osmotic resistance. Therefore, Mycoplasma hominis can not be marked by a Gram stain. For this reason, the administration of beta-lactam antibiotics does not succeed in infection with Mycoplasma hominis. Thus, these only achieve an effect on those bacteria from which a cell wall is built, which has a Mureinschicht. Equally ineffective is the enzyme lysozyme, which occurs in the endosome.

Among the typical features of Mycoplasma hominis is that the bacterium can not perform cholesterol synthesis, due to its altered metabolism. For this reason, the bacterial species requires a host cell to grow. Furthermore, Mycoplasma hominis is equipped with special surface molecules. However, this is not Pili. Nevertheless, as cytoadhesins they allow attachment to the epithelium of the intestine.

Mycoplasma hominis is widespread around the world. It is estimated that the mollicutes have existed for 65 million years and have very efficient survival mechanisms. Since they are only a tiny size, have no cell wall and are very simply equipped and deformable, they are considered to be perfectly equipped for a parasite existence. They are able to attach tightly to the membranes of their host cells. If necessary, they can also make sliding movements and reach mobility.

As commensal Mycoplasma hominis lives in the intestine and in the urogenital tract of humans. In contrast to a veritable parasite, a commensal feeds on the food residues of the host body. However, the bacterium usually does not suffer damage to the organism, though it exploits the human body in its favor. If the immune system of the person runs smoothly, Mycoplasma hominis can have no pathogenic effect and is classified as non-pathogenic. Part of the mycoplasma is also found on the genital mucosa.

Diseases & complaints

In certain circumstances, Mycoplasma hominis may cause a pathogenic effect. This applies primarily to people who suffer from a local or general weakening of their immune system. This arises, for example, by a treatment with antibiotic drugs. The same applies to surgical procedures, birth or cancer.

Mycoplasma hominis sometimes causes local inflammation. These include above all a urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), an inflammation of the renal pelvis, the uterus or vagina and the male prostate gland. In addition, progressive infections are possible in which the affected persons suffer from general symptoms or fever.

Furthermore, the mycoplasmas can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. For this reason, Mycoplasma infections are counted among the sexually transmitted diseases. Controversial, however, is whether the bacteria are also responsible for infertility and miscarriages. The number of Mycoplasmas on the genital mucosa depends on how sexually active the person is and how many sexual partners he has. Thus, larger amounts of Mycoplasma are found in persons who frequently engage in sexual intercourse with changing partners. In principle, antibodies to mycoplasma can be detected in about 95 percent of all middle-aged people in the blood.

The symptoms caused by Mycoplasma hominis are often nonspecific and minor. In addition, they focus on the body site where the inflammation occurs. Most patients suffer from a burning sensation during urination, kidney pain or yellowish discharge.

It is not always easy to clarify the cause of Mycoplasma hominis infection as the bacterium also occurs in healthy people. It is possible to cultivate the germ on a special nutrient medium. Urine, smears from the vagina or urethra of the woman as well as prostate secretion or ejaculate of the man can be used as examination material.

Treatment of Mycoplasma hominis infection is with antibiotics. However, not all remedies of this kind are suitable for therapy, since the mycoplasmas do not have a cell wall. For example, the pathogens are resistant to penicillin. Instead, antibiotics such as erythromycin are used, which have other mechanisms of action.

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