Pathogenesis

Only a few inhaled organisms are necessary to start an infection with M. pneumoniae. The organisms attach to specific receptors on the respiratory epithelium (figure 23.12), interfere with ciliary action, and cause the ciliated cells to slough off. An inflammatory response characterized by infiltration of lymphocytes and macrophages causes the walls of the bronchial tubes and alveoli to thicken.

M. pneumoniae

Cilia

Attachment site

M. pneumoniae

Cilia

Attachment site

Ciliated respiratory epithelium

Figure 23.12 Mycoplasma pneumoniae Infecting Respiratory Epithelium Transmission electron micrograph. Notice the distinctive appearance of the tips of the mycoplasmas adjacent to the host epithelium.The tips probably represent a site on the microorganism that is specialized for attachment.

Ciliated respiratory epithelium

Figure 23.12 Mycoplasma pneumoniae Infecting Respiratory Epithelium Transmission electron micrograph. Notice the distinctive appearance of the tips of the mycoplasmas adjacent to the host epithelium.The tips probably represent a site on the microorganism that is specialized for attachment.

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