What are Mycoplasma infections (Mycoplasma pneumoniae)?

Updated: Feb 15, 2019
  • Author: Ken B Waites, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

Mycoplasma species are the smallest free-living organisms. These organisms are unique among prokaryotes in that they lack a cell wall, a feature largely responsible for their biologic properties such as their lack of a reaction to Gram stain and their lack of susceptibility to many commonly prescribed antimicrobial agents, including beta-lactams. Mycoplasmal organisms are usually associated with mucosal surfaces, residing extracellularly in the respiratory and urogenital tracts. They rarely penetrate the submucosa, except in the case of immunosuppression or instrumentation, when they may invade the bloodstream and disseminate to different organs and tissues throughout the body.

Although scientists have isolated at least 17 species of Mycoplasma from humans, 4 types of organisms are responsible for most clinically significant infections that may come to the attention of practicing physicians. These species are Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Mycoplasma hominis, Mycoplasma genitalium, and Ureaplasma species. The focus of this article is infections caused by M pneumoniae; articles on Ureaplasma infections (eg, Ureaplasma Infection) and genital mycoplasmal infections contain discussions of infections caused by other mycoplasmal species.


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