Mycoplasma Pneumoniae is a transferable infection of the respiratory system that is contracted upon coming in contact with the respiratory droplets that is released from the nose and mouth of an infected person during sneezing and coughing. The infection also carries the risk of becoming an epidemic.
Mycoplasma Pneumoniae is also referred to as walking pneumonia, which is an atypical type of pneumonia. Mycoplasma Pneumoniae has the ability to get transferred more quickly in places like schools, nursing homes, and colleges. The respiratory droplets from an infected person can escape into the air, and a healthy person can get infected by inhaling those droplets.
In the United States, as much as 1 in 5 infections of the lung that develops within the community are linked to the Mycoplasma Pneumoniae bacteria. This type of bacteria is capable of causing illnesses like ear infections, sore throats, chest colds, or tracheobronchitis along with pneumonia. One of the most commonly seen signs of the Mycoplasma Pneumoniae is a dry cough. If this infection is not treated on time, it can lead to developing complications related to the brain, kidneys, skin, heart, the nervous system, and it can also cause hemolytic anemia. Sometimes Mycoplasma Pneumoniae can also prove to be fatal.
Because of its abnormal signs and symptoms, diagnosing it early on can be a challenge. However, as it progresses, it can be detected in laboratory and imaging screenings. Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection is treated with the help of antibiotics. In case antibiotic pills fail to work, or in case the pneumonia is very serious, oral administration of antibiotics are also done.
As opposed to common pneumonia which is caused by the Streptococcus and Haemophilus bacteria. The symptoms of Mycoplasma Pneumoniae greatly differ in comparison. Those who have the Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection do not exhibit signs of shortness of breath, wet cough, and high fever. Instead, they suffer from a mild fever, dry cough, shortness of breath only when they exert themselves, and fatigue.
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The cases of atypical pneumonia that had very different symptoms as compared to typical pneumonia were reported as early as the year 1930. People that suffered from the atypical type of pneumonia had very mild symptoms, and these also lasted longer. Also, the medications used to treat the typical type of pneumonia were not able to cure the symptoms of the atypical one. Mycoplasma Pneumoniae was found to be the main cause of atypical pneumonia in the year 1944.
Scientists gave it the name Mycoplasma because they were of the notion that it was a virus or a fungus. In Greek, Mycoplasma means ‘’fungus formed.’’ Later the scientists found out that it was, in fact, a bacteria with unique characteristics. One being that it did not have a cell wall; this affected how it reacts to antibiotics that are used to cure it. As opposed to viruses that need a living cell to reproduce, these can do that on their own.
How It Spreads?
Mycoplasma Pneumoniae is mainly transmitted from person to person. The bacteria when it infects a person lives in the throat and the nose of that person. While sneezing and coughing, the bacteria is released in the air encased in the respiratory droplets—these droplets, when inhaled by a healthy individual, results in him being infected as well.
For the Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection to spread, two people have to be in prolonged contact with one another. Therefore it can spread among people that live together. The incubation period of the Mycoplasma Pneumoniae is long; it takes from one to 4 weeks for the symptoms to show.
The outbreaks of Mycoplasma Pneumoniae commonly occur in places like schools, hospitals, colleges, nursing homes, etc.
Who is at risk of getting Mycoplasma pneumoniae?
Getting diagnosed early on is difficult as the symptoms take a while to show up after getting exposed to the infection. It takes about 1 to 3 weeks for the symptoms to show. Most of the time, the body’s immune system is able to get rid of the infection on its own without any medical intervention, but there are some people that are at high risk of developing it.
People with underlying medical conditions that already have a weakened immune system. These include people that are on chemotherapy, immunotherapy, powerful steroids, and those that are suffering from HIV.
- those that are suffering from a lung illness
- those who are suffering from sickle cell disease
- kids below age 5
Symptoms of Mycoplasma Pneumoniae
Generally, the symptoms caused by the Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infections are not that severe, to begin with. They take time to appear and gradually get worse. The symptoms appear from 1 to 4 weeks. Mycoplasma Pneumoniae is capable of causing different types of infections. In children, it causes tracheobronchitis or chest colds. The most common signs of a chest cold are:
- sore throat
- a cough that worsens over time
According to experts, 1 in 10 individuals that fall sick due to the Mycoplasma Pneumoniae also get pneumonia. The common signs and symptoms of it are:
- wet cough
- chills along with fever
- shortness of breath
- sain in the chest
When infected by the Mycoplasma Pneumoniae, kids that are below the age of 5 do not have a fever; instead, they have cold-like symptoms. Sometimes they vomit, have diarrhea, and also wheezing.
For the first 1 to 3 weeks, Mycoplasma Pneumoniae progresses without any symptoms. As a result, an early diagnosis becomes very difficult. The infection can also take place outside the lung, in which case the symptoms may include the rupture of red blood cells, a rash on the skin, etc. The Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection can be detected in tests after a period of 3 to 7 days from when the surface of the initial sign.
A doctor does the diagnosis with the help of a stethoscope. It helps in listening to any unusual sounds while breathing. Along with that, a CT scan and an X-ray test of the chest is also done. In order to confirm the infection, a blood test may be asked to be done as well.
Complications & Treatment
Most people recover on their own from a Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection without any medical help. But for some that develop pneumonia due to the infection need to be put on antibiotics. If administered early on, antibiotics help the patient get cured at a faster rate.
In children, Macrolides are the antibiotics that are mostly prescribed. These include
The antibiotic medicines that are prescribed if the patient is an adult are:
- quinolones, such as levofloxacin and moxifloxacin
Corticosteroids are also prescribed to help in reducing the inflammation. These include:
Generally, Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection causes very mild symptoms that do not need hospitalization. In case if the signs and symptoms are serious, a patient might need to be hospitalized. Infections from Mycoplasma Pneumoniae make the following conditions much more severe:
- kidney issues
- severe pneumonia
- swelling of the brain or Encephalitis
- hemolytic anemia which means the presence of less number of the red blood cells in the body
- normal disorders of the skin like erythema multiforme, toxic epidermal necrolysis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome
A Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection is spread through coming in contact with the respiratory droplets of an infected person. There are no vaccines to prevent it as of now. Some preventive measures include:
- covering the mouth and nose with a handkerchief or a tissue while coughing and sneezing
- throwing the used tissue in the dustbin right away
- in the absence of a tissue coughing or sneezing in the crux of the elbow or the sleeves can be done instead of sneezing and coughing in your hands
- washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mycoplasma Pneumoniae is the second most common reason for hospitalizations related to pneumonia in the United States. Mostly if a person is infected with Mycoplasma Pneumoniae, they develop antibodies that prevent them from getting the infection once again in the future. However, for those people that have a weakened immune system due to certain underlying medical problems like having HIV or those that are on certain medications like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, powerful steroids, etc. for them, getting rid of the infection can be very difficult.
The symptoms of Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection go away on their own for most people in about a 1 to 2 weeks time after getting started with treatment. Aside from a cough, most symptoms completely get resolved after a period of 4 to 6 weeks. If a person is having difficulty in managing the infection or is experiencing serious symptoms, they should consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
- Frequently Asked Question: New York State Department of Health
- Symptoms, Complications & Treatment: WebMD