BACKGROUND: The importance of Chlamydia pneumoniae as a cause of pneumonia has remained controversial. The clinical picture of C pneumoniae and Streptococcus pneumoniae in patients admitted to hospital with community-acquired pneumonia was compared during a C pneumoniae epidemic in Finland. METHODS: Group I consisted of 24 patients in whom serological testing and bacterial culture indicated an association with C pneumoniae only, group II comprised nine patients with both C pneumoniae and S pneumoniae, and group III consisted of 13 patients with S pneumoniae only. RESULTS: The patients with C pneumoniae suffered from headache more frequently than the other patients (group I, 46%; group II, 11%; and group III, 15%) and had received antimicrobial treatment more often before admission to hospital (group I, 54%; groups II and III, 0%). The patients with C pneumoniae produced few good sputum samples and had suffered from respiratory symptoms longer than those with S pneumoniae (group I, 10 days; groups II and III, 4 days). C reactive protein values on admission were lowest in group I and highest in group II. The antimicrobial treatment provided in hospital covered C pneumoniae in 36% of cases in group I and 0% in group II, while S pneumoniae was covered in all patients. C pneumoniae and S pneumoniae together were associated with more severe disease and a longer stay in hospital. CONCLUSIONS: Pneumonia caused by C pneumoniae was milder but clinically resembled that caused by S pneumoniae, and required hospital treatment even among young patients. Mixed infections were common and should be taken into account when planning antimicrobial treatment for community-acquired pneumonia. Further studies with more patients are needed to evaluate the severity of C pneumoniae pneumonia.
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