Subtypes and variants of Mycoplasma pneumoniae: local and temporal changes in Germany 2003-2006 and absence of a correlation between the genotype in the respiratory tract and the occurrence of genotype-specific antibodies in the sera of infected patients.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a frequent cause of community-acquired pneumonia. Three subtypes and three variants of M. pneumoniae have been described showing sequence differences in the main P1 adhesin. Between 2003 and 2006 we collected respiratory tract samples of adult outpatients with symptoms of pneumonia in a German nationwide network and detected M. pneumoniae by real-time PCR in 140 specimens. The strains were typed by sequencing and demonstrated the circulation of subtypes 1 and 2 and variants 2a and 2b. The overall number of isolates belonging to the two variant genotypes increased during the investigation period but the relationship of subtypes and variants within the participating local centres varied strongly. ELISA experiments using sera of acute-phase patients with a known M. pneumoniae type in the respiratory tract resulted in no correlation of IgA and IgG antibodies to subtype- and variant-specific regions of the P1 gene with the genotype of the M. pneumoniae strain causing the actual infection.