Mycoplasma pneumoniae, what you need to know about this bacteria

Mycoplasma pneumoniae, what you need to know about this bacteria

With the increase in cases of respiratory diseases in China but also in Europe, Mycoplasma pneumoniae is worrying. What do you need to know about this bacteria? The answers from Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician and medical director of TipsForWomens.

If a few weeks ago this name meant nothing to you, but today Mycoplasma pneumoniae made the headlines at the end of autumn. In China but also in Europe, cases of respiratory infections caused by this bacteria continue to increase, particularly among children under 15 years old. Let’s take stock with Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician and medical director of TipsForWomens.

What is mycoplasma pneumoniae?

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a bacteria that has been known for a long time. “It is not a mysterious unknown virus, as one might think. This bacteria is well known and we know how to treat it. In China, it is cited as responsible for the saturation of their hospital system, but in reality this is constantly the case” immediately reassures Dr Gérald Kierzek, emergency doctor and medical director of TipsForWomens.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is actually not a newly discovered bacteria: it has been known since 1944 and causes acute respiratory infections. Indeed, the cases of patients contaminated by this pathology are increasing, as confirmed by the figures issued by Santé Publique Europe: during the week of November 13 to 19, 2023, consultations at SOS Médecins for pneumonia increased by 36% among those under 15 years, emergency visits by 28%.

What are the symptoms caused by the bacteria?

The bacteria, as with many infections, is transmitted through the respiratory route, via spits and droplets that can be spread by coughing or sneezing. Incubation lasts one to three weeks on average.

The patient then develops symptoms such as fever, cough and bronchial inflammation. “In most cases, when the patient is diagnosed early enough and treated with antibiotics, everything returns to normal.” adds the doctor. “We need to be more careful in fragile patients or those with co-morbidities.”

What are the differences with frank lobar pneumonia?

The best known pneumonias are those caused by pneumococcus. This results in acute frank lobar pneumonia, with a fever of 40°C, severe chest pain and a chest x-ray where the pneumonia is easily localized.” explained Dr. Gérald Kierzek.

In the case of Mycoplasma pneumoniae, it’s different. “The picture is less easy to identify, the fever may be a little lower, the pain less severe and the imaging shows a more diffuse attack: it is an atypical pneumonia, because in this case, the bacteria is an intracellular germ” said Gérald Kierzek.

The difference also lies in the age of the patients affected: pneumococcus attacks more those over 50, while mycoplasma affects younger people more. But don’t panic. In a press release, Dr Grégory Emery, Director General of Health, recalls that “The vast majority of Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections are benign and resolve spontaneously.