Healthy Living

Everything About the Mycoplasma pneumoniae Infection

Everything About the Mycoplasma pneumoniae Infection

Key Takeaways

  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a bacterium that causes an infectious respiratory infection. 
  • It can spread very easily from person to person via airborne droplets.
  • Antibiotics are the mainstay of the treatment.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a bacterium that causes an infectious respiratory infection. Mycoplasma pneumoniae can spread very easily from person to person via airborne droplets.

Lung infections caused by M. pneumoniae can become very serious affecting your heart and nervous system if left untreated. It is hard to diagnose in the early stages of the disease, but as it progresses, specific tests will be able to determine the kind of bacteria causing the disease.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae: The Causative Agent of Pneumonia

Everyone who develops an infection with Mycoplasma pneumoniae does not automatically develop pneumonia, but sometimes, when a person's immune system fails to fight off the infection, this organism can cause an infection to your lung tissues and cause pneumonia.

Who are mostly at risk of contracting Mycoplasma pneumoniae?
  • Adults who are more than 65 years old
  • Children below 5 years old
  • Immunocompromised patients such as ones with HIV/AIDS and those on immunosuppressive medications such as corticosteroids and chemotherapeutic drugs.
  • Cancer patients
  • People with sickle cell disease

Symptoms of M. pneumoniae Infection 

Infections due to M. pneumoniae are similar to those of a simple upper respiratory tract infection that includes fever, dry cough, and generalized body weakness.

If the infection is left untreated, complications of the heart, joints, and nervous system can arise. These include joint pain and stiffness (arthritis), inflammation of the sac that contains the heart, Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a condition where the acute infection results in paralysis leading to the death of an individual, and encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain.

Diagnosing Mycoplasma pneumoniae

After coming into contact with the bacterium, it takes about one to three weeks for the infection to develop. In the early stages of the infection, it is quite hard to diagnose Mycoplasma pneumoniae, but as the disease progresses, certain tests will be able to determine the kind of bacteria causing the disease.

When you consult a doctor, they will first take a detailed medical history and do a complete physical examination. Next, your doctor will order some tests such as a chest X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating Mycoplasma pneumoniae Infections 

  • Antibiotic therapy Since M. pneumoniae is a bacterium, antibiotics will remain the mainstay of the treatment. The antibiotics used in children and adults will be different. For children, macrolides such as erythromycin, clarithromycin and azithromycin are more preferred, whereas doxycycline, tetracycline, and quinolones are preferred for adults.
  • Immunomodulatory therapy - is used together with antibiotics to boost the immune system. Examples of immunomodulatory therapy include corticosteroids and intravenous immunoglobulins.

Can you prevent Mycoplasma pneumoniae Infections?

Yes, you can. Mycoplasma pneumoniae tends to spread more quickly in crowded places such as schools and day care centres. You can lower your chances of developing such infection by:

  • Washing your hands before eating or after interacting with infected people.
  • Resting well
  • Eating healthy
  • Avoiding contact with people who have Mycoplasma pneumoniae.