Is Mycoplasma Pneumonia?
Mycoplasma pneumonia (MP) is a contagious respiratory infection.
The disease spreads easily through contact with respiratory fluids, and it
causes regular epidemics.
The most common sign of infection is a dry cough. Untreated or
severe cases can have symptoms affecting the heart and nervous system. In rare
cases, MP can be fatal.
Diagnosis is difficult in the early stages of MP because there
are few unusual symptoms. As the disease progresses, imaging and laboratory
tests may be able to detect it. Doctors use antibiotics to treat MP. If
antibiotics aren’t effective at treating MP, you may need intravenous
Causes Mycoplasma Pneumonia?
A bacterium called Mycoplasma pneumonia causes MP. This is the
most recognized of all human pathogens. There are over 200 different known
species. Most patients with respiratory infection due to Mycoplasma
pneumoniae don’t develop pneumonia. Once inside the body, the
bacterium may attach itself to your lung tissue and multiply until a full
infection develops. Most cases are mild.
Is at Risk for Developing Mycoplasma Pneumonia?
In many healthy adults, the immune system is capable of fighting
off MP before it can grow into an infection. Those who are most at risk
- older adults
- people who have diseases that compromise their
immune system, such as HIV
- people who have lung disease
- people who have sickle cell disease
- children younger than age 5
Are the Symptoms of Mycoplasma Pneumonia?
The symptoms of MP are the same as a common upper respiratory
Common symptoms of MP include:
- persistent fever
- dry cough
In rare cases, the infection may become dangerous and cause
damage to the heart or central nervous system. Examples of these disorders
- arthritis, which is a disorder in which the
joints become inflamed
- pericarditis, which is inflammation of the
pericardium that surrounds the heart
- Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is a neurological
disorder that can lead to paralysis and death
- encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the
Is Mycoplasma Pneumonia Diagnosed?
The disease generally develops silently for the first one to
three weeks after exposure. Diagnosis is difficult in the early stages because
the body doesn’t instantly reveal an infection. Sometimes manifestations of
infection may occur outside of your lung. If this happens, signs of infection
may include the breakup of red blood cells, a skin rash, and joint involvement.
The symptoms and signs can indicate infection of the gastrointestinal tract,
central nervous system, and heart disease. Three to seven days after the first
symptoms appear, medical testing can show evidence of an MP infection.
In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor will listen to your
breathing with a stethoscope for any abnormal sounds. A chest X-ray and a CT
scan may also help your doctor to make a diagnosis.
Are the Treatment Options for Mycoplasma Pneumonia?
The first line of treatment for MP is antibiotics. Children get
different antibiotics than adults to avoid any potentially dangerous side
Macrolides, the first choice of antibiotics for children,
Antibiotics prescribed for adults include:
Not all people respond to antibiotic treatment. Alternative treatments
include the following corticosteroids:
If you have a severe case of MP, you may need antibiotics and a
“immunomodulatory therapy.” This type of therapy can boost or decrease the
effects of other medicines. Examples of immunomodulatory medications that are
used with antibiotics include:
- intravenous Ig (IVIg)
Can I Prevent Mycoplasma Pneumonia?
MP peaks in the fall and winter months. The risk of contracting
MP is greatest during these times. This is especially true in schools, day care
centers, and dorms. Close places make it easy for the infection to transmit
Here are some tips to lower your risk of infection:
- Get six to eight hours of sleep per night.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Stay away from people who have symptoms of MP.
- Wash hands before eating or after interacting
with infected people.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
People with weak immune systems or chronic infections may have
difficulty fighting off an MP infection. According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mycoplasma pneumoniae is the second most common cause of
pneumonia-related hospitalizations in adults.
However, for most people, symptoms should subside quickly after
treatment. You can expect a cough to linger. Within two to four weeks, most
cases resolve with no lasting consequences.