Mycoplasma pneumonia is an infection of the lungs by the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Mycoplasma pneumonia usually affects people younger than 40.
People at highest risk for mycoplasma pneumonia include those living or working in crowded areas such as schools and homeless shelters, although many people with it have no identifiable risk factor.
The symptoms are generally mild and appear over a period of 1 to 3 weeks. They may become more severe in some people.
Common symptoms include the following:
- Chest pain
- Cough, usually dry and not bloody
- Excessive sweating
- Fever (may be high)
- Sore throat
Less common symptoms include:
- Ear pain
- Eye pain or soreness
- Muscle aches and joint stiffness
- Neck lump
- Rapid breathing
- Skin lesions or rash
Signs and tests
Persons with suspected pneumonia should have a complete medical evaluation, including a thorough physical exam and a chest x-ray -- especially because the physical exam may not always be able to tell pneumonia apart from acute bronchitis or other respiratory infections.
Depending on the severity of illness, other tests may be done, including:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Blood cultures
- Blood tests for signs of mycoplasma infection
- CT scan of the chest
- Open lung biopsy (only done in very serious illnesses when the diagnosis cannot be made from other sources)
- Sputum culture to check for mycoplasma bacteria
Antibiotics that work against Mycoplasma include macrolides, fluroquinolones, and tetracyclines. You can take these steps at home:
- Control your fever with aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or acetaminophen. DO NOT give aspirin to children.
- Do not take cough medicines without first talking to your doctor. Cough medicines may make it harder for your body to cough up the extra sputum.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen secretions and bring up phlegm.
- Get a lot of rest. Have someone else do household chores.
Most people recover completely even without antibiotics, although antibiotics may speed recovery. In untreated adults, cough and weakness can persist for up to a month. The disease can be more serious in the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. While there are numerous causes for these symptoms, you will need to be checked for pneumonia.
Also, call if you have been diagnosed with this type of pneumonia and your symptoms become worse.
Azithromycin can reduce the risk of developing mycoplasma pneumonia in close contacts of patients with the disease. However, this is not often used, and avoiding people who have the infection may also help reduce yourrisk.
Infants, and persons in poor health, especially those with weakened immune systems due to HIV, organ transplants, or other conditions should avoid contact with people who have mycoplasma pneumonia.
Limper AH. Overview of pneumonia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI,eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 97.
Torres A, Menendez R, Wunderink R. Pyogenic bacterial pneumonia and lung abscess. In: Mason RJ, VC Broaddus, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 32.
Mandell LA, Wunderink RG, Anzueto A, et al. Infectious Diseases Society of America/American Thoracic Society consensus guidelines on the management of community-acquired pneumonia in adults. Clin Infect Dis. 2007;44:S27-S72.
Last reviewed 8/30/2012 by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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