Objectives: To determine the prevalence and clinical associations of Mycoplasma genitalium in urethral, rectal and pharyngeal specimens collected from men who have sex with men (MSM) attending male-only saunas.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 521 MSM attending six male-only saunas in Melbourne was conducted between October 2001 and September 2002. Stored urine and rectal and pharyngeal swabs were tested for M genitalium by real-time polymerase chain reaction. The prevalence of M genitalium and clinical associations were determined.
Results: A high prevalence (12.9%; 95% CI 10.2% to 15.9%) of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) was found in MSM. M genitalium (2.1%; 95% CI 1.1% to 3.6%) was less common than Chlamydia trachomatis (8.1%; 95% CI 5.9% to 10.6%, p<0.001), and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (4.8%; 95% CI 3.2% to 6.9%, p = 0.02). M genitalium was most likely to be detected as an asymptomatic rectal (1.6%; 95% CI 0.8% to 3.0%) or urethral infection (0.6%; 95% CI 0.2% to 1.6%, p = 0.12), but was absent from the pharynx. In comparison, C trachomatis was more common in the rectum (6.2%; 95% CI 4.3% to 8.6%) than urethra (1.8%; 95% CI 0.9% to 3.2%, p = 0.004), and was uncommon in the pharynx (0.6%; 95% CI 0.1% to 1.6%). Urethral infection with N gonorrhoeae (0.2%; 95% CI 0.01% to 1.0%) was rare, but it was as common in the pharynx (2.5%; 95% CI 1.4% to 4.2%) as the rectum (2.2%; 95% CI 1.2% to 3.8%). No significant demographic or behavioural associations with M genitalium were identified.
Conclusion: M genitalium was less common than C trachomatis and N gonorrhoeae in MSM attending male-only saunas and was most often detected as an asymptomatic rectal or a urethral infection but was absent from the pharynx. To inform STI screening strategies in MSM, more data are needed to understand how common M genitalium infection is in urethral and non-urethral sites in MSM, and how it contributes to clinical symptoms.
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Funding CSB holds a National Medical and Research Council Research Fellowship, Grant ID 465164.
Competing interests None.
Contributors All authors were involved in designing the study. CSB, NAL and CKF analysed the data. SMG and SNT conducted all laboratory components of the study and all authors were involved in preparation of the manuscript.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.