Mycoplasma is a type of bacteria. Microbiology and Immunology Online, a site provided by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, attests mycoplasma is the smallest free-living bacteria, measuring only 0.2 to 0.8 micrometers in size. This bacterium is so small it can pass through most bacteria-removing filters. Mycoplasma differs from other bacteria because it has no cell wall and can take on many shapes. The most common mycoplasma organisms are Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Mycoplasma hominis and Mycoplasma genitalium.
According to Microbiology and Immunology Online, Mycoplasma pneumoniae attacks the respiratory tract, airways and lungs. The resulting diseases are upper respiratory tract infections, tracheobronchitis (inflammation of the trachea and bronchioles) and atypical pneumonia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 2 million people contract mycoplasma-related pneumonia, and 100,000 hospitalizations occur in the United States each year. MedlinePlus, an online health information source, states mycoplasma pneumonia is usually diagnosed in people younger than 40. It makes up 15 to 50 percent of all pneumonia cases in adults. The percentage is higher in school-aged children. MedlinePlus recommends avoiding patients diagnosed with pneumonia in order to prevent contracting Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
Mycoplasma hominis attaches to lower abdominal organs. Microbiology and Immunology Online states the following diseases result from Mycoplasma hominis: pyelonephritis (kidney infection), pelvic inflammatory disease and postpartum fever. According to Microbiology and Immunology online, Mycoplasma hominis infection can happen during the birthing process, but it doesn’t typically last. Growth of the organism increases with sexually activity. The carriers do not exhibit any symptoms but can still pass the organism on to another person. Microbiology and Immunology Online recommends sexual abstinence or the use of condoms to prevent the spread of Mycoplasma hominis.
Microbiology and Immunology Online states that Nongonococci urethritis is caused by Mycoplasma genitalium. Nongonococci urethritis is an infection of the urethra not caused by the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. According to the New York State Department of Health, Nongonococci urethritis most commonly occurs in men between the ages of 15 and 30. Multiple sex partners increase the risk of contracting this disease. The health department recommends limiting sexual partners, using condoms and washing genitals after sexual contact to prevent the spread of Mycoplasma genitalium.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Mycoplasma hominis and Mycoplasma genitalium must be cultured to be positively identified. According to Microbiology and Immunology Online, mycoplasma cultures grow slowly and may take up to three weeks to produce very small colonies. The organisms can also be identified by their ability to use glucose. Microbiology and Immunology Online states Mycoplasma genitalium is the most difficult to culture.
According to Microbiology and Immunology Online, due to the absence of cell walls in mycoplasma, penicillin and cephalosporin drugs are ineffective. Tetracycline, for adults only, and erythromycin are the antibiotics of choice in destroying mycoplasma. No vaccine is currently available to prevent mycoplasma infections.
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