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Mycoplasma pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by by the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae).
- Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Mycoplasma pneumonia is a type of atypical pneumonia. It is caused by the bacteria M. pneumoniae. This type of pneumonia usually affects people younger than 40. Various studies suggest that it makes up 15-50% of all pneumonia cases in adults and an even more in school-aged children.
People at highest risk for mycoplasma pneumonia include those living or working in crowded areas such as schools and homeless shelters, although many people who contract mycoplasma pneumonia 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 frequently seen symptoms include:
- Signs and tests
Persons with suspected pneumonia should have a complete medical evaluation, including a thorough physical exam and a chest x-ray -- especially since the physical exam may not always distinguish pneumonia from acute bronchitis or other respiratory infections.
Depending on the severity of illness, additional studies may be done, include:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Blood cultures
- Blood tests for antibodies to mycoplasma
- 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
A urine test or a throat swab may also be done.
Antibiotics may be prescribed if symptoms are severe. Home care includes rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating foods high in protein.
- Expectations (prognosis)
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.
- 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.
There is no known prevention for atypical pneumonia. However, avoiding those with the infection can help reduce your risk. 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 with mycoplasma pneumonia.
Limper AH. Overview of Pneumonia. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D. Goldman: Cecil Medicine. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2007:chap 97.
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 Mar 1;44 Suppl 2:S27-72.
Review Date: 9/24/2008
Reviewed By: Benjamin Medoff, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.