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Open Access Case report

Massive empyema caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae in an adult: A case report

Mony Shuvy1, Moshe Rav-Acha1, Uzi Izhar2, Merav Ron3 and Ran Nir-Paz134*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel

2 Department of Cardiothoracic surgery, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel

3 Department of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious diseases, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel

4 Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, 510 Barker Hall #3202, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3202, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2006, 6:18  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-18

Published: 1 February 2006



Mycoplasma pneumoniae is responsible for more than 20% of community acquired pneumonia cases, and capable of causing upper respiratory illness as well. Complications of M.pneumoniae infections include CNS involvement but other as pericarditis were also reported. The lack of feasible culture methods and under appreciation of the pathogens ability to cause invasive disease leads to reduced number of diagnosed M.pneumoniae related complications. In contrast to many other respiratory pathogens causing pneumonia, M. pneumoniae related severe pleural complications were almost never reported.

Case presentation

We report a previously healthy 57 years old woman presented with indolent massive right pleural effusion, leukocytosis and elevated ESR. Extensive microbiological evaluation didn't reveal any pathogen in the pus even before antibiotic treatment was started. Surprisingly, M.pneumoniae DNA was detected in the pus from the empyema using PCR designed to detect M.pneumoniae. A serological assay (Serodia-Myco II) using convalescent serum was indeterminate with a titer of 1:80. The patient responded well to a treatment that included right thoracotomy with pleural decortication and a combination of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.


M.pneumoniae related empyema was never reported before in adult patients and was reported in only a few pediatric patients. In our patient there was no evidence to any common pathogens even before initiating antibiotic treatment. The only pathogen detected was M.pneumoniae. In this patient, serology was not helpful in establishing the diagnosis of M.pneumoniae related diseases, as was suggested before for older patients. We suggest that M.pneumoniae related empyema is probably under-diagnosed complication due to insensitivity of serology in older patients and under use of other diagnosis methods.