What is the role of the culture in the evaluation of 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

Respiratory tract specimens suitable for culture include throat swabs, sputum, tracheal aspirates, bronchial lavage fluid, pleural fluid, or lung biopsy tissue, depending on the patient's clinical condition.

Mycoplasmal organisms have fastidious growth requirements and are often difficult and slow to grow in vitro. Take care during specimen collection to inoculate into a suitable transport medium (eg, SP4 broth or universal transport medium), at the bedside whenever possible, and to not allow desiccation. Clinicians advise freezing at -70°C if specimens cannot be transported to the diagnostic laboratory immediately after collection.

Growth in culture is slow, requiring 3 weeks or longer in some cases, and the culture is not extremely sensitive for detecting M pneumoniae infection. The culture medium is often unavailable except from specialized reference laboratories. If culture is attempted, alternative procedures including serology and/or molecular-based nucleic acid amplification tests should also be performed. [10]


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