Mycoplasma is a genus of bacteria, unicellular microorganisms without cell wall. Lack of a cell wall makes them sensitive to common antibiotics such as penicillin. This kind of bacteria can be parasitic and saprotrophic. Some species can affect human and cause diseases as atypical pneumonia, respiratory disorders (M.pneumoniae), or pelvic inflammatory diseases (M.genitalium).
There are up to 100 mycoplasma species but only 16 of them can live in human’s organism. Six of them can be located in mucous genital and urinary tracts and other 10 types – in the mouth and throat.
Species that live on the mucous membranes of the urinary organs:
- Mycoplasma hominis, M. genitalium and M. fermentans
- M. primatum, M. spermatofilium, M. penetrans
Diseases that can be caused
M.pneumoniae can cause a sore throat, pneumonia, and the inflammation of the channels of the lung called bronchi. The atypical nature of the bacterium contribute to the development of atypical pneumonia. It pneumonia infection more often affects people between 5 and 40 years old, outbreaks are more common in crowded places like dormitories. M.pneumoniae is transmitted from person-to-person by infected respiratory droplets during close contact. The signs and symptoms of mycoplasma pneumonia infection vary according to the stage of illness. Usually, there are flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, headache, weakness, chills and cough. Less common patient may face ear pain, eye pain, joint stiffness, muscles aches, and skin rash.
M.pneumoniae can also be a cause of infections in other areas as central nervous system, liver and the pancreas.
M.genitalium is linked to infections of the urethra, especially when other bacteria affected urethra before or when immune system is under stress reaction.
M.hominis and Ureaplasma urealyticum are known as genital mycoplasmas and are associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These species can lead to urethritis and vaginitis in women.
Ureaplasma urealyticum mycoplasma is located in genital tract of women’s body. It can contribute to premature delivery if woman is pregnant and can be transmitted from mother to child. And as a result, an infant may be affected by pneumonia, infection of central nervous system, and lung malfunction.
Four mycoplasma species such as Mycoplasma fermentans, Mycoplasma penetrans, Mycoplasma pirum, and Mycoplasma hominis may contribute to the occurrence of the immunodeficiency virus that can cause very serious disease – Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). In addition, Mycoplasma fermentans may influence on general health causing chronic fatigue syndrome.
Some researchers suspect Mycoplasma fermentans as a cause of rheumatoid arthritis, but this suggestion is not fully observed and tested.
- amphoriforme is been found in respiratory infections and related to chronic bronchitis in immunosuppressed patients.
- salivarium species can cause eye or ear disorders, oral infection and septic arthritis.
The polymerase chain reaction is considered as the best way to detect mycoplasma. But unfortunately, the laboratories that are using this method are hard to find and in many cases mycoplasma stays undetected for years.
However, there are a lot of developed methods to detect Mycoplasma pneumonia. Sometimes infection shows up outside the lung and in such cases, symptoms may include break up of red blood cells, joint involvement, skin rash, heart disease or affect central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. It takes 3-7 days to recognise first symptoms and after this testing can show if M.pnaumonia is present. The examinations include:
- listening to breathing with the stethoscope for abnormalities
- chest X-ray
- CT scan (computed tomography)
In addition, the M.pneumonia can be identified with a help of tests such as serology assay linked to immunosorbent or polymerase chain reaction or diagnostic kit that detects IgM and IgG antibodies. The two types of antibodies (IgM and IgG) appear in response to M.pneumonia infection and can be measured in the blood.
IgM antibodies occur first in response to infection. Levels of IgM rise for a short period and then decline, but stay detectable for several months. IgG produced by body after IgM rising for some time and then stabilize. So it’s might be a good idea to order both tests for detecting IgM and IgG antibodies one after another.
Treatment of infection
General options to eliminate mycoplasma include strengthening of the immune system and long-term antibiotic use. But it’s important to check your health condition during taking antibiotics as in some cases they could be not effective because mycoplasma can change chemical composition of the surface each time a bacterium divides.
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