Mycoplasma pneumoniae is among the smallest free-living organisms that
are able to replicate on cell free media.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection is a cause of mild pneumonia and a wide
spectrum of other respiratory symptoms such as bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pharyngitis.
Lacking a cell wall, mycoplasmas are resistant to penicillins although antibiotic
treatment is not usually required.
Spread is slow because of limited communicability and long case-to-case intervals,
although epidemics may last 1-2 years in larger communities.
Surveillance in Scotland
Since M. pneumoniae is not a notifiable disease, HPS information, depends
wholly on laboratory reports of infection. The combination of mild presenting symptoms
and the predominance of infection in older children in young adults means that laboratory
reports are likely to substantially under-estimate the true extent of infection.
Trends in Scotland (1995-2000)
There were substantial outbreaks of mycoplasma infection in Scotland in both 1995
and in 1998. Since epidemics generally occur in four yearly cycles, the next significant
outbreak is not expected until the winter of 2001 at the earliest.
Incidence and Risk
M. pneumoniae infections are endemic in larger urban areas. Epidemic increases
are observed at 4 - 7 year intervals and predominantly affect older children and
young adults. High incidences have also been seen in military populations. Asthmatic
children, as well as other individuals with pre-existing respiratory disease, may
be at higher risk of developing pneumonia.
Since M. pneumoniae infections are almost exclusively mild, preventative
measures are not normally recommended as necessary.