Chlamydophila pneumoniae

RANK: Species

TAXONOMY: Chlamydiae -> Chlamydiia -> Chlamydiales -> Chlamydiaceae -> Chlamydia/Chlamydophila group -> Chlamydia -> Chlamydophila pneumoniae


Chlamydophila pneumoniae is a species of Chlamydophila, an obligate intracellular bacterium that infects humans and is a major cause of pneumonia. It was known as the Taiwan acute respiratory agent (TWAR) from the names of the two original isolates – Taiwan (TW-183) and an acute respiratory isolate designated AR-39. Until recently, it was known as Chlamydia pneumoniae, and that name is used as an alternate in some sources. In some cases, to avoid confusion, both names are given. The first known case of infection with C. pneumoniae was a case of conjunctivitis in Taiwan in 1950. There are no known cases of C. pneumoniae in human history before 1950. This atypical bacterium commonly causes pharyngitis, bronchitis, coronary artery disease and atypical pneumonia in addition to several other possible diseases.

C. pneumoniae has also been found in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

C. pneumoniae infection was first associated with wheezing, asthmatic bronchitis, and adult-onset asthma in 1991.Subsequent studies of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from pediatric patients with asthma and also other severe chronic respiratory illnesses have demonstrated that over 50 percent had evidence of C. pneumoniae by direct organism identification. C. pneumoniae infection triggers acute wheezing, if it becomes chronic then it is diagnosed as asthma. These observations suggest that acute C. pneumoniae infection is capable of causing protean manifestations of chronic respiratory illness which lead to asthma.

Macrolide antibiotic treatment can improve asthma in a subgroup of patients that remains to be clearly defined. Macrolide benefits were first suggested in two observational trials and two randomized controlled trials of azithromycin treatment for asthma. One of these RCTs and another macrolide trial suggest that the treatment effect may be greatest in patients with severe, refractory asthma. These clinical results correlate with epidemiological evidence that C. pneumoniae is positively associated with asthma severity and laboratory evidence that C. pneumoniae infection creates steroid-resistance. A recent meta analysis of 12 RCTs of macrolides for the long term management of asthma found significant effects on asthma symptoms, quality of life, bronchial hyper reactivity and peak flow but not FEV1. Evidence from macrolide RCTs of patients with uncontrolled severe and refractory asthma will be critical in defining the role of macrolides in asthma.