WHAT THEY ARE: Mycoplasma, chlamydia and ureaplasma are among the smallest organisms. They are unlike other bacteria because they have no cell walls and therefore must live inside cells. They are unlike viruses because they can live in cultures outside of cells and can be killed by certain antibiotics. However, they cannot be killed by most antibiotics, as most antibiotics work by damaging a bacteria’s cell wall. They can be killed by antibiotics such as the tetracyclines or erythromycins that do not act on a cell wall.
WHAT DISEASES THEY CAUSE: If you feel sick and your doctor is unable to make a diagnosis because all laboratory tests and cultures fail to reveal a cause, you could be infected with any of these bacteria. The only way that you will be cured is for your doctor to suspect an infection with these germs and for you to take long-acting erythromycin or tetracyclines for several weeks, months or years. They are the most common cause of venereal diseases and are a common cause of muscle and joint pains, burning in the stomach, a chronic cough, and chronic fatigue. They can cause transverse myelitis (paralysis of the spine) (1); gall stones (2); a chronic sore throat (3); red itchy eyes, pain on looking at light and blindness (4); arthritis (5,19); brain and nerve damage with symptoms of lack of coordination, headaches and passing out; spotting between periods or uterine infections (6); kidney stones (7); testicular pain; asthma (8); heart attacks (9); strokes (10); cerebral palsy (11); premature birth (12); high blood pressure (13); nasal polyps (14); stuffy nose in newborns (15); chronic fatigue (16); belly pain (17); muscle pain (18); confusion, passing out and death (19); coughing, bloody diarrhea, and anal itching and bleeding.
WHY THEY ARE SO DIFFICULT TO DIAGNOSE AND TREAT: Most doctors will not prescribe antibiotics to patients without a laboratory test that indicates a specific infection. No dependable test is available to rule in or out mycoplasma, chlamydia or ureaplasma infections. Most antibiotics will not kill these organisms and those that do have to be taken for many months and years. Furthermore, many infected people do not take medication long enough to be cured, or they may have a close contact with an infected person and become reinfected. Once these infections are allowed to persist for months or years, they are extraordinarily difficult to cure and often require treatment for many months. One venereal-disease patient in four takes medication as prescribed (20) and almost all women who still had chlamydia one month after treatment were reinfected by new or old partners (21).
Usually your first symptoms from chlamydia, ureaplasma and mycoplasma are burning on urination, a feeling that you have to urinate all the time, terrible discomfort when the bladder is full and vaginal itching, odor or discharge. Other first symptoms include itchy eyes, a cough or a burning in your nose. You can be infected when an infected person coughs in your face, or you touch nasal or eye secretions from an infected person and put your finger in your nose or eye. Your chances for a cure are high if you are treated when you have only local symptoms; but after many months, the infection can spread to other parts of your body and make you sick or damage nerves, joints and muscles. If you feel sick and your doctor is unable to make a diagnosis because all laboratory tests and cultures fail to reveal a cause, you could be infected with mycoplasma, chlamydia or ureaplasma and can be cured only by taking long-acting erythromycin or tetracyclines for many months.
HOW I TREAT: I often prescribe 500 mg of azithromycin twice a week and/or doxycycline 100 mg twice a day. You may require treatment for months or years, if your symptoms have gone on for many months or years: muscle and joint pains, a chronic cough, burning on urination, severe fatigue or signs of nerve damage. However, long term treatment with antibiotics is controversial and many physicians disagree with these recommendations. Discuss your particular condition with your doctor or health care provider. For more information on some of the diseases and conditions that may be caused by these bacteria, see my reports on asthma, heart attacks, infertility, venereal disease, reactive or rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
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15) 9% of newborns get a stuffy nose taht is casued by mycoplasma and cannot be cultured by routine laboratory methods. NM Iskandar, MB Naguib. Chlamydia trachomatis: An underestimated cause for rhinitis in neonates. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 42: 3 (JAN 1998):233-237.
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19) Braun et al. Chlamydia pneumoniae- a new causitive agent of reactive arthritis and undifferentiated arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis 1994;53:100-105. 20) Gerard HC et al. Screening of synovial tissue from reactive arthritis patients for the presence of chlamydia pneumoniae. Arthritis Rheum 1995;38:S394.
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24) S Johnson, D Sidebottom, F Bruckner, D Collins. Identification of Mycoplasma fermentans in synovial fluid samples from arthritis patients with inflammatory disease. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 2000, Vol 38, Iss 1, pp 90-93.
Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., and his wife, nutritionist Diana Mirkin bring you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for 50 years more
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