About the Test
Purpose of the test
Mycoplasma testing is used to determine whether someone currently has or recently had an infection with Ureaplasma urealyticum or Mycoplasma hominis. There are other types of Mycoplasma infections, too, so the choice of tests and body samples collected depends on your age when tested, your general health status and symptoms, and on the health care practitioner’s clinical findings and suspicions of organ involvement.
Mycoplasmas are the smallest free-living microbes known. They may exist as part of the normal flora found in the genitourinary tract, throat, or upper respiratory tract. Unlike other types of bacteria in many ways, mycoplasmas can be difficult to culture and identify.
Testing may be done to detect mycoplasma like Mycoplasma hominis, Mycoplasma genitalium, and Ureaplasma urealyticum. In adults, these organisms are primarily sexually transmitted, causing nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) and some inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) in men, and sometimes associated with vaginal discharge and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women.
M. hominis and U. urealyticum can also be passed from mother to baby during birth when the baby moves through an infected birth canal. Rarely, they can cause systemic infections in infants and in those with compromised immune systems.
M. hominis and U. urealyticum genital samples are typically tested using a culture method that takes several days to recover the microbes, but M. genitalium, which can take one to two months to grow, may be more reliably detected with DNA testing.
Another type of Mycoplasma is M. pneumoniae, a common cause of upper respiratory infections, with an estimated 2 million cases in the U.S. each year. It is responsible for 15-20% of cases of community-acquired pneumonia, appearing as single cases and as periodic epidemics, especially in school-age children and in settings where people live in close quarters.
What does the test measure?
Testing may be used to determine if M. hominis, U. urealyticum, or Mycoplasma genitalium is the cause of an infection of the genital or urinary tract. This is done by testing a urine sample.
Other types of Mycoplasma testing, such as for M. pneumoniae, is more complex.
When should I get a mycoplasma test?
Testing of genital samples is not often done because mycoplasmas are frequently part of the normal flora of the genital tract. However, a culture for M. hominis and U. urealyticum may sometimes be ordered when a sexually active male or female is suspected of having a genital mycoplasma infection after tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia have come back negative.
Finding a Mycoplasma Test
How can I get a Mycoplasma test?
If you’re testing for the type of mycoplasma that may be causing symptoms to a sexual organ, there are ureaplasma and mycoplasma testing kits available to conduct genital swabs on your own. You can also order a mycoplasma test online and complete the test at a local lab.
Can I take the test at home?
At-home ureaplasma and mycoplasma testing kits are available if you’re checking for the presence of mycoplasma as it relates to your sexual health. For women, a collection kit via a vaginal swab is available, while men can provide a urine sample. Results take approximately three to four days.
How much does the test cost?
The cost of a mycoplasma depends on where the test is taken and what your insurance covers. If ordered by a doctor as bloodwork, that is normally at least partially covered by insurance, minus any copays or deductibles you are responsible to pay. Check with your doctor and insurance plan about the cost of the test.
At-home mycoplasma testing kits (using urine or vaginal swab) cost around $99. Other types of mycoplasma testing costs will vary depending on where the sample is taken. For questions involving costs, it’s best to check in with your health plan or refer questions to your health care provider or lab.
Taking a Mycoplasma Test
Direct detection of mycoplasma may be done on a variety of samples, and some may require a special procedure to collect them.
- Urine is often the go-to sample collection to test for M. hominis and U. urealyticum
- To detect a genital infection, a swab of the cervix or urethra may also be collected.
- For the type of mycoplasma test involving a respiratory infection, samples may include sputum, a washing of the bronchi in the lungs, or a throat swab.
- If systemic infection is being diagnosed, blood, joint fluid, body fluids, or tissue samples may be cultured.
Before the test
Special preparation is not usually required before taking a mycoplasma count test, but it’s always smart to ask your health care provider if there are any pre-test instructions to follow.
For mycoplasma tests involving urine or vaginal swab, the technician conducting the exam will guide you. If using an at-home test kit, be sure to carefully follow instructions so that you collect the sample correctly.
During the test
A urine mycoplasma test is as simple as collecting a sample of urine in a collection container.
For a vaginal sample, a swab must be inserted into the vagina. This can be done on your own, or by a medical practitioner. You shouldn’t feel any discomfort since it only takes a second and the swab is small. If doing your own test, be sure to follow instructions so you know how to correctly collect the sample.
After the test
There aren’t any specific instructions to follow after you complete a mycoplasma test.
Mycoplasma Test Results
Receiving test results
Mycoplasma result turnaround times vary depending on the type of test you did. Vaginal swab or urine test results should only take about three to four days.
Blood tests to detect antibodies to M. pneumoniae come back within a few days, and perhaps faster in a hospital setting, but doctors sometimes want a repeat test done a couple of weeks later to recheck levels.
M. pneumoniae culture tests take much longer, with negative tests held for three to four weeks to confirm that a mycoplasma is not present. However, DNA testing is much more rapid, so doctors often order both tests at the same time.
Interpreting test results
When taking samples from the genital tract, a positive culture may simply mean that the mycoplasma is present as part of your normal flora. For example, U. urealyticum is present in the genital tract of about 60% of healthy women and M. hominis is present in about 20%. That is why the test is done in conjunction with other testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Whenever you receive test results, especially for a less common test like mycoplasma, speak to your physician and ask questions. Some things to ask may include:
- Are these results conclusive or is follow-up testing needed?
- What treatment is available if the test detects mycoplasma in my body?
- Should other testing be done along with the ureaplasma and mycoplasma test?