When you hear the word chlamydia, you might think of the sexually transmitted disease (STD) by that name. The STD is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, one species of Chlamydia bacteria. Another species, called Chlamydia (or Chlamydophila) pneumoniae, causes respiratory illnesses. These lung infections are spread in the same way as many other respiratory diseases. They are passed from person to person directly through coughs or sneezes and indirectly from germs on hands or other objects. The number of these infections peaks in school-aged children between 5 and 15 years of age.
Signs and Symptoms
Illnesses caused by C pneumoniae can cause a prolonged cough, bronchitis, and pneumonia as well as a sore throat, laryngitis, ear infections, and sinusitis. They usually start gradually with a sore throat that is followed by a cough about a week or more later. The cough may last for 2 to 6 weeks. In some cases, the child may get bronchitis or a mild case of pneumonia. While some infected children have only mild to moderate symptoms or no symptoms at all, the infection may be more severe in others.
How Is the Diagnosis Made?
Many cases of C pneumoniae are diagnosed by a pediatrician after doing a physical examination of the child and looking at his symptoms. The doctor can also order blood tests that detect antibodies to the bacteria. However, it can take a week or more for the antibodies to show up in the blood. Although there are special laboratories that can evaluate swab specimens from the nose or throat, there are no reliable commercially available studies at this time.
Recovery from a Chlamydia respiratory infection may be slow. Your pediatrician can prescribe antibiotics such as erythromycin or tetracycline to clear up the infection and help your child get better faster.
To lower the chances of your child getting a C pneumoniae infection, he should practice good hygiene, including frequent hand washing.