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Drugs and diseases reference index

Diseases reference index «Mycoplasma pneumonia»

Mycoplasma pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae).

See also:

  • Atypical pneumonia
  • Viral pneumonia


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 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
  • Chills
  • Cough, usually dry and not bloody
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever (may be high)
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Less frequently seen symptoms include:

  • Ear pain
  • Eye pain or soreness
  • Muscle aches and joint stiffness
  • Neck lump
  • Rapid breathing
  • Skin lesions or rash

Exams 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, including:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Blood cultures
  • Blood tests for antibodies to mycoplasma
  • Bronchoscopy
  • 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.

Outlook (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.

Possible Complications

  • Ear infections
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Severe pneumonia
  • Skin rashes

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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.