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Eur Respir J. 2000 Jul;16(1):108-11.

Chlamydia pneumoniae infection in adults with chronic cough compared with healthy blood donors.

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Dept of Pediatrics, Skejby Hospital, Arhus, Denmark.


In a small uncontrolled study, persistent cough has recently been found to be associated with serological evidence of acute Chlamydia pneumoniae infection. In order to assess whether C. pneumoniae plays a role in chronic cough, the prevalence of C. pneumoniae infection in 201 adult patients with chronic cough was compared with the prevalence in 106 healthy blood donors without respiratory tract symptoms in the preceding 3 months. A microimmunofluorescence antibody test was used to determine C. pneumoniae antibodies in the immunoglobulin (Ig)M, IgG and IgA fractions. Further, nasopharyngeal aspirates from the 201 patients were examined for C. pneumoniae deoxyribonucleic acid by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). As judged by serology, nine patients (4%) and one control (1%) had acute C. pneumoniae infection, and 92 patients (46%) and 42 controls (40%) had previous or chronic C. pneumoniae infection. Of the nine patients with acute infection, three were C. pneumoniae PCR positive, and they all had an IgM antibody titre response. The remaining six patients had either an IgG antibody titre of > or =512 (five patients) or an IgA antibody titre of > or =512 (one patient). None of these six patients had detectable IgM antibodies. The mean cough period for the five IgG positive patients (10.8 weeks) was significantly longer than the mean cough period for the remaining patient population (6.4 weeks; p=0.004). It is concluded that Chlamydia pneumoniae infection was not statistically significantly more prevalent in patients with chronic cough than in healthy blood donors, and that Chlamydia pneumoniae appears to have a minor role in patients with chronic cough. Direct detection of Chlamydia pneumoniae by polymerase chain reaction on nasopharyngeal aspirates is highly correlated with detectable immunoglobulin M antibodies, but in the late stages of prolonged cough serological testing of immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin A may be more beneficial for obtaining a microbiological diagnosis.

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