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Missing mycoplasmas.

Missing mycoplasmas

Mycoplasmas are the smallest free-living microorganisms. Unlike bacteria, they lack a cell wall and are too small to be seen under a light mciroscope; unlike viruses, they live on their own. Mycoplasmas cause a wide spectrum of conditions, from kidney stones to premature labor. They are also elusive, and as a result they often go unrecognized even when causing disease, says Gail H. Cassell of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"Because of mycoplasmas' small size and fastidious growth requirements, most clinical laboratories in this country as well as those around the world don't perform routine diagnoses for them," she says. The microorganisms can take a month or more of cell culture to reach detectable levels.

While certain antibiotics, especially tetracycline, can kill mycoplasmas, failure to recognize that mycoplasmas are at fault can result in an ineffective antibiotic being used. "When it comes to [mycoplasmas-caused] urinary tract infections and kidnye stones, most times tetracycline is not one of the antibiotics used for treatment," Cassell says.

There prevalence in certain diseases is known--mycoplasmas are a common cause of pneumonia, and may be the most common cause of premature labor, says Cassell. But at the moment there's no way to tell just how much disease is caused by mycoplasmas, Cassell says, because no widespread screening for the organisms has been done, and because researchers are in the process of finding mycoplasmas in more diseases.
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Title Annotation:lack of widespread screening for mycoplasmas as cause of disease
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 20, 1986
Previous Article:Butterfly hide-and-seek.
Next Article:Sexual mycoplasmas.

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