Mycoplasma pneumoniae: Does it have a Role in Asthma Pathogenesis?
Thomas P. Atkinson
Affiliation: Children's of Alabama, Park Place 220, 1600 7th Ave South, Birmingham AL 35233, USA.
Keywords: Allergy, asthma, infection, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, pathogenesis, pneumonia.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory airway disease characterized by reversible obstruction. The cause(s) of
asthma are still an area of active investigation in many laboratories across the world, but to date the pathogenesis has remained
obscure. It is likely that asthma is the final common pulmonary expression of multiple factors that lead to airway
hyperresponsiveness, some inherited and some environmental, which differ in different individuals. It is clear that respiratory
infections play a major role in the development of asthma during childhood. However there are seemingly contradictory
data suggesting on the one hand that exposure to bacterial products, e.g. lipopolysaccharide, and viral infections, e.g.
participation in daycare, during early childhood can be protective, but on the other hand there is well-documented association
of the development of airway hyperreactivity following infections with viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus and
atypical bacterial infections, particularly with Mycoplasma pneumoniae. New studies, suggest that M. pneumoniae is
present in the airways of a substantial proportion of the population, bringing up the possibility that the persistent presence
of the organism may contribute to the asthmatic phenotype in a subset of patients. This review will examine the current
data regarding a possible role for M. pneumoniae in chronic asthma.
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