What is Mycoplasma Pneumonia?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2019
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Mycoplasma pneumonia is called atypical pneumonia and may also be referred to as walking pneumonia because it has a tendency to make people not quite as sick as other forms of the illness. In other words, many people are still able to be up and around while sick. Yet, it should not be thought of as viral, an occasional way walking pneumonia is described, because the illness is really caused by a bacterial infection. The germ responsible is Mycoplasma or M. pneumoniae and this can be killed with antibiotic treatment. Though called atypical, this form of pneumonia is fairly common and most often affects people under the age of 40, particularly children, or those who have impaired immune systems.

The symptoms of mycoplasma pneumonia can vary with each individual. Many people develop some fever, though this takes a few weeks to occur. Dry coughing with a sore chest is common, and flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, headache, aching or chills may occur. Some people also get ear or eye infections from the bacteria, and others may have a rash.


If people suspect they have mycoplasma pneumonia or any form of pneumonia they should see a doctor. Sometimes people do just dismiss this illness as a bad cold because it doesn’t result in the same level of sickness seen with most forms of pneumonia. Yet people can feel sick for a long time, and this type of pneumonia can easily last for a month. Thus, it’s recommended that people with these symptoms get medical help earlier.

Doctors may do several tests to look for pneumonia. They could listen to the chest with a stethoscope or have an chest x-ray performed. Blood tests can confirm presence of M. pneumoniae, or sometimes evidence of the bacteria is evaluated through a culture of sputum (mucus from cough) or throat culture.

Not all doctors agree on the treatment of mycoplasma pneumonia. If symptoms are not severe, some physicians merely recommend bed rest. The body can eventually fight M. pneumoniae without any special type of treatment. On the other hand, in the interest of people getting well sooner, doctors may recommend a treatment course of antibiotics. These may help more quickly resolve the condition and would certainly be indicated if the illness is severe or if a person has other health conditions that might complicate the pneumonia.

As stated, many people do get better without antibiotics, but it can take roughly a month before symptoms clear. Many people can’t afford or don’t choose to be sick this long. Should a doctor not recommend antibiotics, patients are certainly well within their rights to ask for them.

Mycoplasma pneumonia can be contagious and those who have this condition should try to avoid contact with anyone who is medically vulnerable. This would especially include those with autoimmune diseases or very young children. While complications don’t frequently result from illness, they can when a body is too young or too sick to fight the disease.


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