by Dr. Bill Rawls
Mycoplasma is the stealthiest of all stealth microbes. It may be a major player in many chronic diseases associated with aging, but remarkably, most people — including most doctors — have limited awareness of it.
If you have Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disease, or possibly any other chronic illness, however, mycoplasma is a microbe you should know about.
Mycoplasma: The Master Manipulator
Mycoplasma is a parasite, meaning it can’t live without a host. And it’s the smallest of all bacteria: 4,000 of them can fit inside a single red blood cell in your body. By comparison, only 10-15 average-sized bacteria would fit in the same cell.
Unlike other bacteria, mycoplasmas don’t have a protective cell wall, creating an interesting survival strategy: They can shape-shift and fit into areas where other bacteria can’t go. For example, it also allows them to slip inside cells of the host. The lack of a cell wall makes mycoplasma resistant to some commonly prescribed classes of antibiotics like penicillins, which normally work by interrupting a bacteria’s cell wall so that when the bacteria divides, it falls apart.
More than 200 known types of mycoplasma (and probably many yet to be discovered) can infect animals and plants. There are at least 23 different varieties of mycoplasma that can infect humans. A few of them are considered harmless normal flora, but most have the potential to cause disease.
Mycoplasma is spread by biting insects (ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, biting flies), sexual contact, contaminated food, and airborne droplets. Most everyone has been exposed to some form of mycoplasma. Several mycoplasma species have been closely associated with many chronic degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, according to publications like the International Reviews of Immunology and the British Journal of Medical Practitioners, respectively.
Even beyond its tiny size, shape-shifting qualities, and proliferous nature, mycoplasma is a master at manipulating and outmaneuvering the host’s immune system. Half of its genetic makeup is devoted to that exclusive purpose.
While it has little ability to cause direct harm, it can use the host’s immune function to its advantage: Mycoplasma generates chronic low-grade inflammation and steals vital nutrients from the body.
In fact, everything that this stealthy microbe needs for survival — vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and amino acids — must be scavenged from the host; it makes nothing itself. Mitochondria, which are the energy powerhouses of cells, are prime targets to sustain the microorganism, which helps explain why fatigue is always a factor in mycoplasma infections.
Mycoplasma favors infecting the cells of tissues that line different areas of the body. Common sites of infection include:
- Nasal passages
- Lining of the intestinal tract
- Genital tract
- Vesicles inside the brain
- Synovial lining of joints
They also commonly infect white blood cells, red blood cells, and brain tissue. Different mycoplasma has a preference for certain tissues, but all mycoplasma species possess the ability to infect any type of tissue and all organ systems.
The most common mycoplasma, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, has a preference for lung tissue. Initial infection with M. pneumoniae typically causes pharyngitis (sore throat), cough, fever, headache, malaise, runny nose — all the common symptoms of a basic upper respiratory infection.
If the person’s immune system is not full strength, the infection can progress to bronchitis and even pneumonia (about 20% of pneumonias). The type of pneumonia caused by mycoplasma, often called “walking pneumonia,” is rarely severe enough to result in hospitalization, though it can drag on for weeks or even months.
But even when those respiratory symptoms are cleared, it may not be the end of the story. That’s because after mycoplasma enters the body, it also infects white blood cells. And once inside a white blood cell, it can be carried to all parts of the body, infecting tissues and organs.
The potential for widespread infection is very much influenced by the status of the host’s immune function. If immune function is optimal, the microbe is contained after the initial infection, and no long-term harm occurs. Approximately 30-70% of people carry at least one species of mycoplasma without having symptoms. It essentially becomes like normal flora of the microbiome, which are the non-threatening microbes found on the skin, in the gut, and body cavities.
But most mycoplasma species aren’t normal flora, and they are just waiting for an opportunity to gain a foothold. If immune function slips for whatever reason, chronic, systemic infection becomes possible. Mycoplasma begins stealing vital nutrients and causing a wide range of symptoms that are unrelated to the initial infection. The general breakdown of tissues by stealth microbes like mycoplasma accelerates the aging process and is likely a primary factor in many, if not most, chronic degenerative diseases.
Stealth Characteristics of Mycoplasma
Stealth microbes are a stronger force together than when alone. In other words, mycoplasma may not be a problem unless another stealth microbe (or microbes) is present. Lyme disease may be a good example of this phenomenon.
Mycoplasma is a common Lyme coinfection: It’s present in 75% or more of Lyme disease cases. Mycoplasma is known to be carried and spread by ticks, but it is also possible that mycoplasma is already present in the body when a bite from a tick carrying borrelia — the primary bacteria associated with Lyme — occurs.
Immune dysfunction caused by the new tick-borne infection or possible other coinfection allows mycoplasma to proliferate and cause multi-systemic symptoms throughout the body. Many symptoms that occur in Lyme disease can be caused by mycoplasma, too.
Body Systems Affected by Chronic Mycoplasma
Mycoplasma infection may be localized to certain areas of the body (such as the lungs), or it can be more widespread and systemic. Parts of the body where symptoms can manifest include:
- Joints: Mycoplasma commonly infects the synovial lining of joints, the lining protecting the joints. Ninety percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis test positive for mycoplasma in the synovial fluid.
- Muscles: Muscle pain from breakdown of muscle fibers is common with systemic mycoplasma infection.
- Heart: Mycoplasma can lead to inflammation of the heart, such as endocarditis, myocarditis, pericarditis.
- Nerves: Mycoplasma scavenges fats from the myelin sheath covering nerve tissue. Not surprisingly, mycoplasma (and other microbes, including chlamydia and borrelia) has been linked to multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS (Mycoplasma fermentans is most common) and Parkinson’s disease.
Nerve involvement can be associated with neuropathic pain like burning and tingling in the hands and feet. Brain inflammation, contributing to insomnia, brain fog, depression, and anxiety, is common with systemic mycoplasma infection.
- Immune system: Mycoplasma is a top candidate for explaining autoimmunity; it stimulates host self-damage, and it can live inside cells while simultaneously turning off the ability of the immune system to recognize the cell as abnormal.
- Lungs: Mycoplasma in the lungs contributes to respiratory symptoms like sore throat, cough, fever, headache, malaise, runny nose, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
- Digestive tract: Intestinal mycoplasma infection destroys villi — fingerlike projections in the small intestine that aid food absorption — and compromises the intestinal barrier. This allows accelerated damage by lectins in grains (especially wheat), beans, soy, nightshade vegetables, and dairy.
Mycoplasma may contribute to leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability. Severe mycoplasma intestinal infection can lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight loss. Infection of the gastric mucosa (stomach lining) can cause chronic gastritis with nausea and stomach discomfort.
- Ears: Mycoplasma infection has been associated with hearing loss and ringing in the ears.
- Eyes: The eyes may be impacted by mycoplasma with such issues as conjunctivitis, eye swelling, and vision loss.
- Reproductive system: Research suggests mycoplasma has been found in ovarian cancer tissue. It may also contribute to interstitial cystitis, a bladder condition marked by severe pain and urinary frequency.
- Blood: Mycoplasma has been found in the bone marrow of children with leukemia.
Diagnosing Mycoplasma and the Limitations of Testing
When it comes to testing, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is the most accurate method for testing mycoplasma. It’s cost-effective and evaluates for the presence of mycoplasma’s genetic material, a test that’s easy, sensitive, and quick test to obtain at most laboratories.
However, PCR testing has limits because it only tests for a handful of mycoplasma species and primarily focuses on diagnosing acute respiratory or genital mycoplasma infections — not chronic, low-grade infections.
Another problem with diagnosing mycoplasma is that conventional science does not recognize chronic mycoplasma infections as being significant. Even though mycoplasma is commonly found in association with chronic degenerative diseases, it’s also found in one-third to two-thirds of any population without causing symptoms. In other words, it is assumed that mycoplasma just happens to be there but isn’t really a contributing factor in disease.
This type of thinking is simply a reflection of not understanding how stealth microbes operate. Mycoplasma does not cause disease unless it has an opportunity to do so. Individuals with a healthy immune system can harbor mycoplasma and suffer few ill effects. If immune function is disrupted by environmental factors or a coinfection with other stealth microbes, however, mycoplasma can definitely contribute to chronic disease.
When testing for mycoplasma, it is best to order a complete PCR mycoplasma panel, which will include:
- M. fermentans
- M. genitalium
- M. hominis
- M. penetrans
- M. pneumoniae
- M. synoviae
- Ureaplasma urealyticum
But these are only the commonly-known species of mycoplasma; other lesser-known species could also be present.
Another problem with testing is that other stealth microbes can be associated with chronic infections with similar symptoms of mycoplasma infection, adding confusion to the clinical picture of what’s making a person ill. The list of knowns includes:
- Yersinia enterocolitica
- Chlamydophila pneumoniae
- Chlamydia trachomatis
- Campylobacter jejuni
But complete testing for the full range of all stealth microbes can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Possibly the best course of action is assuming mycoplasma and other stealth microbes are there.
Stealth microbes only cause problems when immune function is suppressed. Addressing the causes of the underlying chronic immune dysfunction that allowed mycoplasma to flourish in the first place is the most effective solution for overcoming chronic infections.
Conventional Medical Solutions
The nature of mycoplasma makes it very resistant to conventional therapies. Many antibiotics target cell walls; since mycoplasma doesn’t have one, several classes of antibiotics are ineffective against the microbe. Some other antibiotics (doxycycline, erythromycin, clarithromycin, or azithromycin), block internal functions of bacteria and have some activity against mycoplasma, but activity is limited by the fact that mycoplasma bacteria only live inside cells where antibiotics have minimal penetration.
When it comes to chronic mycoplasma infections, the best approach is supporting the body’s natural healing potential.
Natural Solutions for Mycoplasma
Natural herbal therapy is the best therapeutic alternative for chronic mycoplasma. Herbs (especially medicinal mushrooms) work by:
- Suppressing cytokine cascades
- Reducing inflammation
- Restoring normal immune function
- Suppressing a wide range of covert pathogens
Consider the following herbs to get you started:
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
Native to Tibet, cordyceps is a medicinal mushroom that reduces cytokines and normalizes immune system functions. It is highly protective of cells, which reduces invasion by microbes.
Suggested dosage: 1-3 grams (1,000-3,000 mg) of whole mushroom cordyceps powder or 400-800 mg extract (standardized to >7% cordyceptic acid is preferred) two to three times daily.
Side effects: Mild nausea can occur, but in general, side effects are rare, even with higher doses. Allergic reactions are rare.
Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
When combined with other herbs, Chinese skullcap has potent synergist properties. Additionally, it has strong antimicrobial and immunomodulating properties that are beneficial for suppressing mycoplasma and protecting tissues and organs infected with the microbe.
Suggested dosage: 400-1,000 mg two to three times daily. Root extract standardized to >30% baicalin is preferred. Note: American skullcap does not offer the same antimicrobial properties and should not be substituted.
Side effects: Gastrointestinal upset can occur, but side effects tend to be rare, even at high doses.
Bidens (Bidens pilosa)
The herb offers potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties against mycoplasma, affecting mucous membranes of the body.
Suggested dosage: Bidens is most potent when prepared as an alcohol tincture. The dose may vary depending on the company, but tinctures are an excellent way to begin at a low dose and increase drops as tolerated.
Side effects: Some plants can be contaminated with heavy metals, so make sure you purchase the product from a reputable company that takes steps to minimize exposure. You should not take this plant if you are diabetic, as it can cause fluctuations in blood glucose or insulin levels.
Houttuynia (Houttuynia cordata)
Native to India and Nepal, houttuynia is a potent antiviral with activity also against mycoplasma.
Suggested dosage: The dose may vary depending on a company’s preparations.
Side effects: The herb can have a fishy smell but is otherwise well tolerated.
Anamu (Petiveria alliacea)
Found in tropical, Amazonian regions of Central and South America, anamu offers excellent antimicrobial coverage for mycoplasma.
Suggested dosage: The daily dose of powdered herb is 1,000-2,000 mg twice daily.
Side effects: Note that anamu will give urine and feces a strong garlic-like odor. Generally, the herb is safe and well-tolerated, but it should be avoided in pregnancy.
Mullaca (Physalis angulata)
Mullaca is another Amazonian herb with antimicrobial qualities to fight mycoplasma, and it works well as a complement to anamu. It can be found online as a loose powder (add it to smoothies or make your own capsules) or a tincture.
Suggested dosage: The daily dose for powdered herb is 1,000-2,000 mg twice daily.
Side effects: The herb is generally regarded as safe, however, it should be avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
The Bottom Line
In addition to herbal therapy, the optimal path to recovery from chronic mycoplasma involves eliminating artificially-processed foods in favor of whole, nutrient-dense meals, reducing exposure to toxins, and managing chronic stress — all of which disrupt immune function and pave the way for stealth microbes to flourish. By minimizing these factors and implementing a comprehensive herbal therapy protocol, you can begin to curb chronic mycoplasma infections and support your body in the healing process.
Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.
You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.
Learn About Dr. Rawls’ Herbal Protocol »
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Mycoplasma infections are commonly found in people with Lyme Disease. But most doctors don't know to test for them. These are the smallest organisms that can live independently.What is the best antibiotic for mycoplasma? ›
What is the treatment for mycoplasma infection? Antibiotics such as erythromycin, clarithromycin or azithromycin are effective treatment.Can you get mycoplasma from a tick bite? ›
Mycoplasma are spread by biting insects (ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, biting flies), sexual contact, contaminated food, and airborne droplets. Most everyone has been exposed to some form of mycoplasma.Can your body beat Lyme disease without antibiotics? ›
Antibiotics are the only proven treatment for Lyme disease. Some people who have unexplained signs and symptoms or chronic disease might believe they have Lyme disease even if it's not been diagnosed.
Current partners should be treated at the same time to prevent reinfection. All sexual partners of someone with Mycoplasma infection from the past 6 months should have a sexual health check. They should be treated even if they don't have symptoms.Which is the most common infection due to Mycoplasma? ›
The most common type of infection is tracheobronchitis (chest cold). Common symptoms of a chest cold include: Sore throat.What kills mycoplasma? ›
There are three classes of antibiotics that kill mycoplasma when used at relatively low concentrations: tetracyclines, macrolides and quinolones. Tetracyclines and macrolides block protein synthesis by interfering with ribosome translation, whereas quinolones inhibit replication of mycoplasma DNA.Is mycoplasma a big deal? ›
Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria commonly cause mild infections of the respiratory system (the parts of the body involved in breathing). Sometimes these bacteria can cause more serious lung infections that require care in a hospital. Good hygiene is important to help decrease the spread of M.Is mycoplasma hard to get rid of? ›
Elimination of mycoplasmas is usually difficult or unsuccessful due to the resistance of mycoplasmas to antibiotics.How long does mycoplasma last? ›
The illness can last from a few days to a month or more (especially coughing). Complications do not happen often. No one knows how long an infected person remains contagious, but it is probably less than 20 days. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.
Mgen is passed on through penetrative vaginal or anal sex without a condom with someone who has the infection. It cannot be caught by kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, using swimming pools or from toilet seats.Can mycoplasma cause joint pain? ›
Mycoplasma pneumoniae (MP), also known as an atypical bacterium, is 1 of the most frequent pathogens involved in the etiology of lower respiratory tract infections. MP bacteremia was proved to result in a wide-spectrum of extrapulmonary manifestations, arthritis being among the least common of them.What naturally kills Lyme disease? ›
Supplements for Lyme disease
- vitamin B-1.
- vitamin C.
- fish oil.
- alpha lipoic acid.
- cat's claw.
One reason people can get better without specifically treating for Lyme disease biofilm is all antibiotics can decrease biofilm size. Research by Eva Sapi PhD shows that the antibiotics doxycycline, metronidazole, tinidazole, and amoxicillin can reduce biofilm size by various degrees.How can I boost my immune system for Lyme disease? ›
Healthy Immune Hygiene in a Lyme Disease Treatment
One of the best ways to optimize the immune system is through regular immune boosting practices. These include light to moderate exercise, meditation, quality sleep, and a healthy diet.
It doesn't mean your partner has been cheating, but rather that one of you has had it all along and just didn't know. If you're experiencing symptoms and think you have MG, speak to your GP. They'll have to rule out other possible infections before testing for mycoplasma.Should I isolate if I have mycoplasma? ›
Because of the endemicity of infection with M pneumoniae in susceptible populations, isolating patients is seldom practical and generally is not recommended.Can you have mycoplasma for years? ›
Yes. Most people do not experience any symptoms with Mycoplasma genitalium. Some people may be infected for years without knowing it.Can you recover from mycoplasma without antibiotics? ›
Mycoplasma pnuemoniae infections are generally mild, but some people may need care in a hospital. Most people will recover from an infection caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae without antibiotics.What are the two diseases caused by mycoplasma? ›
Several Mycoplasma species can cause disease, including M. pneumoniae, which is an important cause of atypical pneumonia (formerly known as "walking pneumonia"), and M. genitalium, which has been associated with pelvic inflammatory diseases.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Put your used tissue in a waste basket.
- If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
The term “Lyme disease co-infection” typically describes the type of case in which a patient is simultaneously infected with Lyme disease and one or more of any of the other tick-borne diseases that are commonly transmitted by the ticks that spread Lyme.What are the two diseases caused by Mycoplasma? ›
Several Mycoplasma species can cause disease, including M. pneumoniae, which is an important cause of atypical pneumonia (formerly known as "walking pneumonia"), and M. genitalium, which has been associated with pelvic inflammatory diseases.What are all the Lyme co infections? ›
Possible co-infections include Lyme borreliosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus, and B. miyamotoi infection.What bacteria is associated with Lyme disease? ›
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and rarely, Borrelia mayonii. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.How do you treat co infections with Lyme disease? ›
Usually an atovaquone drug like Mepron or Malarone is used along with an antibiotic such as azithromycin; the combination increases the effectiveness of the treatment. As with most tick-borne diseases, you do not develop any immunity after infection and you can get Babesiosis over and over.Why do doctors not believe in Lyme disease? ›
Without laboratory findings, however, most doctors are uncomfortable with diagnosis and treatment of chronic Lyme disease. This may be because Lyme disease symptoms can be mistaken for those of other illnesses, such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and depression.What can Lyme disease be misdiagnosed as? ›
Patients with Lyme disease have been incorrectly diagnosed with: multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis [1-7], polymyalgia rheumatica, thyroid disease, and psychiatric disorders, among others.Is mycoplasma a big deal? ›
Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria commonly cause mild infections of the respiratory system (the parts of the body involved in breathing). Sometimes these bacteria can cause more serious lung infections that require care in a hospital. Good hygiene is important to help decrease the spread of M.How do I get rid of mycoplasma? ›
- A. Using quinolones as a single antibiotic compound.
- B. Application of two different antibiotics such as plasmocin.
Mimic molecules of self-antigens by Mycoplasma species can produce antibodies against Mycoplasma antigens that react with self-antigens, causing autoimmune disease (Rottem, 2003).Does Lyme disease stay with you forever? ›
No. Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Most patients who are treated in later stages of the disease also respond well to antibiotics, although some may have suffered long-term damage to the nervous system or joints.What is the most common reservoir for Lyme disease? ›
Reservoir hosts include ground-dwelling birds and small mammals [23, 24]. In the Northeastern US, the most important reservoir host in the Lyme disease life cycle is the white-footed mouse, P. leucopus [22, 25–29].Are white blood cells elevated with Lyme disease? ›
In patients with Lyme disease, the white blood cell count (WBC) can be normal or elevated. The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is usually elevated. The serum aspartate transaminase (AST) may be elevated.
Triggers for Lyme disease vary by person, but they can include: emotional stress (such as a divorce, death in the family, or accidents) physical stress to the body (i.e., surgery, physical harm, concussion) life stress or stressful events.Can nerve damage from Lyme disease be reversed? ›
This neuropathy presents with intermittent paresthesias without significant deficits on clinical examination and is reversible with appropriate antibiotic treatment.Does lymes disease lower your immune system? ›
Lyme disease and autoimmune conditions
A Lyme disease infection is known to cause a weak immune system.