China, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands, along with one Ohio county, report a rise in childhood pneumonia linked to Mycoplasma pneumoniae. While no widespread increase is seen in the rest of the US, this bacteria typically triggers pneumonia outbreaks every one to three years. With no major occurrences since pre-COVID-19, experts anticipate a potential increase this year, emphasizing the variability in Mycoplasma infection seasons. Dr. Buddy Creech from Vanderbilt University notes the likelihood of this year being more challenging for Mycoplasma infections in the US and Europe.
In the past week, European surveillance across 45 sites in 24 countries revealed a resurgence of Mycoplasma cases, dropping below 1% during the pandemic but surging over fourfold by summer and fall, particularly in Asia and Europe, reported in The Lancet Microbe. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight antibiotic resistance possibly contributing to the uptick in Chinese cases. Dr. Peter Hotez from the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development notes periodic outbreaks, especially among 5- to 12-year-olds.
An ordinary infection stages a return. While Mycoplasma might not be a household name for parents, doctors recognize it as a frequent culprit of mild or “walking” pneumonia. This infection manifests with a persistent cough, often accompanied by a fever, headache, and a rash on the trunk, back, or arms.
Pneumonia, an inflammation leading to the lungs filling with fluid or pus, stems from various causes, including viruses, bacteria, and chemicals. Nationwide, the surge in respiratory infections from Covid-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is contributing to an increase in pneumonia cases.
Health officials in Warren County, Ohio, reported an unusual increase in kids’ pneumonia cases, totaling 142 since August. While not considering it a new respiratory disease, the district attributes the surge to a significant uptick in typical pneumonia cases. Testing revealed Mycoplasma, Strep bacteria, and adenovirus among the detected agents.
While Mycoplasma infections aren’t mandatory for doctors to report in many states, the CDC monitors them through emergency departments and laboratory data. CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen stated that, currently, pneumonia-related emergency department visits show no atypical trends.
What parents should know?
Many Mycoplasma-related pneumonia cases may not have surfaced yet, as they’re often treated in pediatrician offices due to their milder nature. Pediatricians commonly prescribe antibiotics like amoxicillin without initial cause testing. Dr. Creech notes that this may lead to underestimating Mycoplasma prevalence, as testing occurs only if the initial treatment fails, prompting hospital visits.
Front-line antibiotics for most pneumonia types don’t work for Mycoplasma. Instead, doctors prescribe different antibiotics like azithromycin or a Z-Pak. However, Z-Paks aren’t effective for pneumonia caused by other agents, requiring careful consideration by doctors and parents in choosing treatment.
Parents should note that when starting antibiotics for pneumonia, there should be a reasonable response in the first few days. If not, it’s crucial to check in with the pediatrician. While being alert, there’s no need for alarm as Mycoplasma cases may be higher this year.