Diagnostic Methods

Clinical laboratories can provide diagnostic testing for Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections using culture, serology, or nucleic acid amplification methods (see chart below).

Unique characteristics that impact diagnostic methods

M. pneumoniae differs from other bacteria in ways that impact the methods used for diagnosis of infection:

  • It can pass through filters typically used to remove bacteria.
  • Light microscopy cannot detect it.
  • It does not produce visible turbidity in liquid growth media. In order to get a visual confirmation of growth, M. pneumoniae cultures require specialized media.

Diagnostic options

Currently, molecular test methods are widely used in clinical and public health laboratories. There are multiple commercially available molecular test kits cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the detection of M. pneumoniae. Most of these kits are used for detection of multiple respiratory pathogens, including M. pneumoniae. When additional or specialized testing is necessary, local or state public health laboratories can provide diagnostic support or forward specimens to CDC.

Advantages, disadvantages, and availability of select M. pneumoniae diagnostic methods