Background. Mycoplasma pneumoniae is one of the most common pathogens that causes community-acquired respiratory tract infection. Outbreaks are well known, and all age groups are susceptible. An outbreak in an army training unit afforded an opportunity to identify possible risk factors for morbidity. Methods. An outbreak of respiratory illness that occurred in a unit comprising 91 trainees was investigated and analyzed as a cohort study. M. pneumoniae infection was suspected on clinical grounds and was confirmed by polymerase chain reaction, culture, and serologic testing. Data regarding medical history, symptoms, signs, and laboratory tests were collected. Results. During a period of 12 days, 41 soldiers (45.1%) had respiratory illnesses, of which 10 (11.0%) were pneumonia. Comparison of symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals revealed that smoking was associated with higher rates of disease (risk ratio, 2.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-3.2; P<.005) and seroconversion (risk ratio, 2; 95% CI, 1.2-3.4; P = .03). In multivariate analysis, both lower acute immunoglobulin G values (adjusted odds ratio, 7.8; 95% CI, 1.4-42.5; P = .018) and smoking (adjusted odds ratio, 5.6; 95% CI, 1.5-20.4; P = .01) were associated with symptomatic infection; stratification according to smoking status revealed that immunoglobulin G levels among nonsmokers were protective. Patients who had pneumonia had lower lymphocyte counts (1400 ± 258 vs. 2000 ± 465 cells/μL; P = .001). Conclusions. Smoking and lower preexisting immunoglobulin G levels were strongly associated with M. pneumoniae respiratory infection. These findings emphasize the importance of immunity and cessation of smoking for the prevention of disease. The high attack rate emphasizes the extent of infection transmission among healthy persons living in close contact.
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Potential conflicts of interest. R.N.P. has received research grant from Savyon Diagnostics. All other authors: no conflicts.
Financial support. This work was partially supported by the Joint Grant of the Hebrew University Medical School and Hadassah University Medical Centers to RNP. The serology assay was gift from Savyon Diagnostics.