Mycoplasmas are different from other bacteria because they do not have cell walls. Many antibiotics, such as penicillin, kill bacteria by weakening cell walls. Because Mycoplasmas do not have cell walls, many antibiotics cannot kill them.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a common cause of community-acquired pneumonia in all age groups. Outbreaks have occurred in schools, camps, and military camps.
Symptoms of pneumonia due to M. pneumoniae are typically mild, including low-grade fever, tiredness, sore throat, and cough. This infection is sometimes called "walking" pneumonia, which is a nonmedical term for mild pneumonia that does not require bedrest or hospitalization. Some people even feel well enough to go to work and participate in other daily activities. However, M. pneumoniae sometimes causes a more serious pneumonia that requires hospitalization.
Many people with urinary and genital infection with mycoplasma, especially women, have no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they are similar to symptoms of chlamydia and vary by sex and location of infection:
Mycoplasmas can sometimes be identified by doing nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) on respiratory secretions or on vaginal or urethral swabs. NAATs look for an organism's unique genetic material, its DNA or RNA (which are nucleic acids). NAATs use a process that increases the amount of the bacteria's DNA or RNA so that it can be more easily identified.
As with other respiratory infections, prevention includes covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing hands often with soap and water.
Safe sex practices are recommended to decrease risk of sexually transmitted infection.
There is no vaccine for M. pneumoniae infections.
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