What is the prevalence of mycoplasmal pneumonia?

Updated: Dec 28, 2018
  • Author: Michael Joseph Bono, MD, FACEP; Chief Editor: Guy W Soo Hoo, MD, MPH  more...
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M pneumoniae is now recognized as one of the most common causes of community-acquired pneumonia in otherwise healthy patients younger than 40 years. Although mycoplasmal pneumonia is common in all age groups, it is most common in the first 2 decades of life, is rare in children younger than five years, and has the highest rate of infection in individuals aged 5-20 years. Although no difference in disease frequency is observed between males and females, illnesses are somewhat more severe in males.

M pneumoniae causes upper and lower respiratory illness in all age groups, particularly in temperate climates, and can occur at any time of the year, but large outbreaks tend to occur in the late summer and fall. Transmission of the organism is person-to-person by infected respiratory droplets. In summer, this organism may cause as many as 50% of all pneumonias.

The incubation of mycoplasmal pneumonia tends to be smoldering and averages a period of 2-3 weeks, in contrast to that of influenza and other viral pneumonias, which generally average a few days. Epidemics of mycoplasmal pneumonia tend to occur every 4-8 years in the general population and tend to be more frequent within closed populations, such as in military and prison populations. Although M pneumoniae is a common cause of pneumonia, only 5-10% of infected patients actually develop pneumonia. Many patients infected with M pneumoniae remain asymptomatic, but patients who become symptomatic develop a respiratory infection which can be lingering and quite bothersome.

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