Understand Chlamydia Pneumonia And How It Is Diagnosed

Pneumonia is a respiratory tract infection that typically affects the lungs (one or both). There is no single cause of pneumonia. Sometimes it can be caused by bacteria, such as Chlamydia pneumoniae. 

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Overview of chlamydia pneumonia 

Chlamydia pneumonia is a type of pneumonia caused by the bacteria Chlamydia pneumoniae (previously known as TWAR)¹. 

Other causes of pneumonia include bacterial and viral infections, such as:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (bacterial infection)

  • Legionella pneumoniae, known as Legionnaires' disease (bacterial infection)

  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae (bacterial infection)

  • Haemophilus influenzae (bacterial infection)

  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (viral infection)

  • Influenza (viral infection)

  • SARS-CoV-2 (viral infection that causes COVID-19) 

Hence, there are several causes of pneumonia. But all cases of pneumonia can cause the lungs to fill up with fluid in the air sacs, causing shortness of breath.  

Finding treatment for pneumonia is important. That's because pneumonia can damage the lining of your lungs when it persists for too long. 

How it spreads

Like most respiratory infections, the bacteria Chlamydia pneumoniae spreads from one person to another via respiratory droplets arising from the coughing or sneezing of an infected person. If you inhale those droplets, you could become sick. 

The symptoms 

During the early stages of chlamydia pneumonia, you may appear asymptomatic (showing no signs or symptoms). Therefore, many unknowingly spread this infection because they are unaware of it until symptoms occur. Symptoms may not be apparent until 3-4 weeks after exposure to the bacteria.

Additionally, the symptoms can vary in severity. Some people may have a mild case, while others experience moderate or severe symptoms.

Initially, you may notice typical flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • A fever

  • A sore throat

  • Hoarseness 

  • Headaches 

  • A persistent cough

If you have mild chlamydia pneumonia, these symptoms last between 1-4 weeks. However, the cough could persist for several weeks. 

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain due to excessive coughing

  • Weight loss

  • Gastrointestinal disturbances, such as nausea

  • Body aches 

  • Sinusitis

For severe cases, the symptoms are slightly different. For example, you will notice:

  • Dyspnea (extreme shortness of breath, the feeling that you cannot get enough air into your lungs)

  • Fatigue 

  • Inability to concentrate 

  • Flu-like symptoms

Who’s at risk 

Those who are more at risk of developing chlamydia pneumonia are:

  • Children under two years

  • Adults over 65 years

  • Smokers

  • People who drink heavily

  • Hospitalized patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) 

  • People with a pre-existing lung disease

  • Immune-compromised people, such as someone with cancer

  • People who have been recently unwell with a cold or flu

How chlamydia pneumonia is diagnosed 

Since chlamydia pneumonia is similar to a cold or flu, it can sometimes go undiagnosed. Therefore, many people do not realize they have chlamydia pneumonia until their flu-like symptoms persist, 

prompting them to see a doctor. 

Your doctor may diagnose your condition by:

  • Asking questions about your medical history

  • Blood tests

  • Sputum test (testing for bacteria in your phlegm ) 

  • Chest x-rays 

  • CT scans of your chest 

Treatment options 

Treatment may not be required for mild cases. However, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics since a bacterial infection causes chlamydia pneumonia.

If you have symptoms of chlamydia pneumonia, you should seek treatment since this bacteria can play a role in the development of other medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, arthritis, and coronary artery disease.

Azithromycin is a standard antibiotic treatment for chlamydia pneumonia (500mg as a loading dose on day one and 250mg maintenance dose for four days more). 

If azithromycin does not work, other possible antibiotics include:

  • Tetracycline

  • Clarithromycin

  • Doxycycline

  • Fluoroquinolones

Depending on your symptoms, some over-the-counter medications or home remedies could also be helpful, such as: 

  • Hot beverages and soups

  • Cough medicine

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen for body aches or headaches 

  • Decongestants 

  • Warm compress 

Also, ensure that you get plenty of rest and drink lots of water to stay properly hydrated. 

The lowdown 

Chlamydia pneumonia can range in severity from mild to moderate or severe. You should see a doctor and consider antibiotics when symptoms are moderate or severe or persist for more than a couple of days. Don't wait for this condition to worsen before seeking help, as this infection can cause lung damage when left untreated for too long. 


Can you get pneumonia from chlamydia?

Chlamydia pneumonia is a type of bacteria that can enter the respiratory tract and cause lung infections such as pneumonia. It is transmitted by inhaling droplets of the bacteria from the cough or sneeze of an infected person.

In contrast, the sexually transmitted disease called chlamydia is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. This bacteria is in the same general species as Chlamydia pneumonia, but it is a different bacteria and is not transmitted via respiratory droplets.

Can chlamydia pneumonia be cured?

The standard treatment to cure you of chlamydia pneumonia is antibiotics. However, should the infection reoccur, your doctor may prescribe a different type of antibiotic instead. 

Will chlamydia pneumonia go away without treatment?

 Some people can recover on their own. However, you should still seek medical advice from a doctor about treatment since this infection is associated with developing other health conditions, as mentioned above.

  1. Chlamydia pneumonia | NIH: National Library of Medicine

Other sources:

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