Mycoplasma pneumonia (MP) is a type of bacteria that can cause many symptoms, including dry cough, fever, and mild shortness of breath on exertion.
The Mycoplasma pneumonia bacterium is one of the most recognized of all human pathogens, and there are
Most people with respiratory infections caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae don’t develop pneumonia. For this reason, MP is known as an atypical pneumonia and is sometimes called walking pneumonia.
Once inside the body, the bacterium can attach itself to your lung tissue and multiply until a full infection develops.
Of these, Mycoplasma pneumoniae causes the most infections, though only about 10% of people infected will actually develop pneumonia.
The immune system can fight off MP in many healthy adults before it grows into an infection. Those most at risk
MP symptoms are different from those of typical pneumonia caused by common bacteria, like Streptococcus and Haemophilus.
Patients usually do not have severe shortness of breath, high fever, and a productive cough with MP. Instead, they have a low-grade fever, dry cough, mild shortness of breath (especially with exertion), and fatigue.
- mild shortness of breath
In rare cases, the infection can become dangerous and damage the heart or central nervous system. Examples of these disorders include:
- arthritis, in which the joints become inflamed
- pericarditis, an inflammation of the pericardium that surrounds the heart
- Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder that can lead to paralysis and death
- encephalitis, a potentially life-threatening inflammation of the brain
- kidney failure
- hemolytic anemia
- rare and dangerous skin conditions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis
- rare ear problems like bullous myringitis
In rare cases, MP may be fatal.
In some cases, an MP infection can become dangerous. If you have asthma, MP can make your symptoms worse. MP can also develop into a more severe case of pneumonia.
Long-term MP is rare, but some research
Other potential complications of MP
- respiratory failure
- lung abscess
- acute respiratory distress syndrome
- lung consolidation
- bronchiolitis obliterans
See your doctor right away if you experience any symptoms, especially if they last for more than 2 weeks.
Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for MP. Children get different antibiotics than adults to prevent potentially dangerous side effects.
Macrolides, the first choice of antibiotics for children, include:
Antibiotics prescribed for adults include:
Sometimes antibiotics alone are not enough, and you have to be treated with corticosteroids to manage the inflammation. Examples of such corticosteroids include:
If you have severe MP, you may need other “immunomodulatory therapy” in addition to corticosteroids, including intravenous immunoglobulin or IVIG.
MP usually develops without noticeable symptoms for the first 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. Early-stage diagnosis is difficult because the body doesn’t instantly reveal an infection.
The infection can manifest 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 risk of contracting MP peaks in the fall and winter months. Close or crowded places make it easy for the infection to transmit from person to person.
To lower your risk of infection, try the following:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, M. pneumoniae is the
Most people develop antibodies to MP after an acute infection, which protect them from becoming infected again. Patients who have a weak immune system, like those with HIV or people treated with chronic steroids, immunomodulators, or chemotherapy, may be at a higher risk of reinfection.
For others, symptoms should subside 1 to 2 weeks after treatment. A cough may linger, but most cases resolve with no lasting consequences within 4 to 6 weeks.
See your doctor if you continue to experience severe symptoms or if the infection is interfering with your daily life. You may need to seek treatment or a diagnosis for any other conditions that your MP infection might’ve caused.