Diagnostic guidance: Mycoplasma testing options
Brandon Dominguez, DVM, MS, DACVPM
Mycoplasma bacteria can cause a variety of symptoms in many of our animal species. These bacteria are unique because they lack a cell wall, making them challenging to detect and treat. The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) commonly detects infections in dogs, cats, and livestock.
One of the most common signs of mycoplasma infection in animals is respiratory disease. Affected animals may exhibit symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, eye and nasal discharge, and labored breathing. In poultry, the condition is known as Chronic Respiratory Disease, which can lead to decreased egg production and poor growth rates. In cattle, mycoplasma is part of the Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex, and in cats, it can present as upper respiratory infections.
While respiratory symptoms are common, some mycoplasma species can also cause skin lesions and infections while other strains cause joint infection and lameness in animals. This can be particularly problematic in poultry and swine production, where it can lead to reduced mobility and pain. Mycoplasma infections can lead to lethargy and reduced activity levels in animals. They may appear sluggish, lose interest in food or social interactions, and spend more time resting. Fever is a common response to mycoplasma infections.
Mycoplasma infections can also result in reproductive issues for breeding animals such as infertility, miscarriages, and weak offspring. These bacteria can also affect the mammary glands causing mastitis and poor milking.
Though Mycoplasma species need special conditions to grow, TVMDL can culture for the bacteria from tissues or swabs. There are also polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that target the bacteria’s nucleic acid (DNA). Some of the PCR tests are specific for certain Mycoplasma species. Antibody tests are also available for some species of Mycoplasma to help determine if animals have had exposure to the bacteria.
For questions about TVMDL’s mycoplasma testing options, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu or call 1.888.646.5623.