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Open Access Research article

Clinical severity of Mycoplasma pneumoniae (MP) infection is associated with bacterial load in oropharyngeal secretions but not with MP genotype

Anna C Nilsson1*, Per Björkman1, Christina Welinder-Olsson2, Anders Widell3 and Kenneth Persson3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Malmö Infectious Disease Research Unit, Lund University, 205 02 Malmö, Sweden

2 Department of Clinical Microbiology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, 413 45 Göteborg, Sweden

3 Malmö Department of Clinical Microbiology, Lund University, 205 02 Malmö, Sweden

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:39  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-39

Published: 25 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Disease severity in Mycoplasma pneumoniae (MP) infection could potentially be related to bacterial factors such as MP genotype (MP1 or MP2; distinguished by different adhesions proteins) or bacterial load in airway secretions. We have compared these parameters in patients who were hospitalized for MP pneumonia, with outpatients with mild MP disease.

Methods

MP bacterial load was measured by real-time PCR in 45 in- and outpatients ("clinical study group") in whom MP DNA had been detected in oropharyngeal secretions by PCR. In addition, genotype and phylogenetic relationships were determined. The phylogenetical assessment was done by partial DNA sequencing of the P1 gene on isolates from 33 patients in the clinical study-group where sufficient DNA was available. The assessment was further extended to isolates from 13 MP-positive family members and 37 unselected MP positive patients from the two subsequent years and two different geographical locations. In total 83 strains were molecular characterized.

Results

Mean MP loads were significantly higher in 24 hospitalized patients than in 21 outpatients (1600 vs. 170 genomic equivalents/μL, p = 0.009). This difference remained significant after adjustment for age and days between disease onset and sampling. Hospitalized patients also had higher C-reactive protein levels. Mean levels were 188 vs 20 mg/L (p = 0,001). The genotype assessment showed MP genotype 1 in 17 of the 33 sequenced strains from the clinical study-group, and type 2 in 16 of these patients. Within each genotype, sequence differences were minimal. No association between disease severity and MP genotype was observed. In the extended genotype assessment, MP1 was found in similar proportions. In family contacts it was found in 53% and among patients from the two subsequent years 53% and 40%.

Conclusions

A higher MP bacterial load in throat secretions at diagnosis was associated with more advanced respiratory disease in patients, but MP genotype did not influence disease severity. Both MP genotypes co-circulated during recent outbreaks in Sweden.