OBJECTIVES--To study the occurrence of mycoplasmas and ureaplasmas in patients with hypogammaglobulinaemia and the relationship of these micro-organisms to septic arthritis. METHODS--Over a period of about 20 years, 53 men and 38 women with hypogammaglobulinaemia, most of whom were less than 50 years old, were examined clinically and microbiologically. Mycoplasmas and ureaplasmas were sought in the throat, urogenital tract and joints by standard cultural methods, although not consistently in the three sites of all patients. RESULTS--Arginine-hydrolysing mycoplasmas and ureaplasmas occurred with similar frequency in the sputum/throat of the hypogammaglobulinaemic patients, but no more often than might be expected in immunocompetent patients. Ureaplasmas, however, dominated in the urogenital tracts of both men and women, being found in 75% of vaginal specimens. Arginine-hydrolysing mycoplasmas occurred two to six times more frequently and ureaplasmas two to three times more frequently in urine specimens from hypogammaglobulinaemic patients than they did in such specimens from sex- and age-matched non-venereal disease, hospital patients or healthy subjects; these differences were statistically significant (p < 0.05). Enhanced mucosal colonisation probably increases the chance of spread to distant sites, such as the joints. Of the 91 patients, 21 (23%) had septic arthritis involving one or more joints. Mycoplasmas and/or ureaplasmas, but not bacteria, were isolated from the joints of eight (38%) of these patients. However, dissemination to joints apparently had not occurred in some despite the opportunity by virtue of mycoplasmal or ureaplasmal colonisation at a mucosal site. Sometimes antibiotic therapy failed clinically, and microbiologically and recommendations for management are outlined. CONCLUSIONS--Hypogammaglobulinaemic patients appear to be more susceptible to colonisation of mucous membranes, especially of the urogenital tract, with mycoplasmas and ureaplasmas than are immunocompetent individuals. These micro-organisms are responsible for about two fifths of the septic arthritides occurring in these patients.
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