Mycoplasmosis - A New Disease in Camelids

U. Wernery and J. Kinne.

Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Dubai, UAE

Corresponding author email: [email protected]




Classification of certain bacteria families has dramatically changed over the last decade

mainly based on the development of molecular techniques, comparing nucleotide sequences of the

genome, in particular the 16S rRNA gene sequences; these changes refer also to the mycoplasma

family. Bacteria, formerly known as Haemobartonella and Eperythrozoon species of the order

Rickettsiales have been re-classified as belonging to the Mycoplasmataceae (Table 1). They are

named haemotrophic mycoplasmas.


Table 1: Mycoplasmataceae of veterinary importance

Family Host Genus (No. of



Mycoplasma (2)

Acheloplasma (2)

Ureaplasma (?)

M. haemolamae (Haemobartonella spp.)

M. arginini

A. laidlawii, A. oculi




The presentation is divided into 3 parts. The first part deals with haemotrophic mycoplasmas,

the second part with -classical‖ mycoplasmas and the third with a mycoplasma - outbreak in

dromedaries in Iran.

Haemotrophic mycoplasmas are now a well known bacteria group in the USA in NWCs but

also in Europe where more and more SACs are kept. Scientists have also described a double infection

in an alpaca with haemotropic mycoplasma and anaplasma.

Mycoplasmosis has frequently been identified in young llamas (McLaughlin et al., 1990;

Semrad, 1994). Such llamas have a history of weight loss and stunted growth and development of

acute or recurrent infectious conditions. During necropsy, severe fibrinous polyserositis involving the

thoracic and abdominal organs, moderate diffuse non-suppurative interstitial pneumonia, splenic

hyperplasia, necrotizing enteritis, widespread vascular thrombosis and anaemic infarcts in the liver are

observed. These organisms are attached to the surface of red blood cells of the affected llamas and are

often found in clusters, usually towards the edge of the cell (Wernery et al., 1999). Also double

infections with A. phagocytophilum and M. haemolamae have been described in SACs (Lascola et al.,

2009). They are extremely difficult to differentiate from anaplasma of which several species also

parasitize in red blood cells, when blood smears are checked.

Much progress has been made in the study of the haemotrophic mycoplasmas in camelids,

and diagnostic testing has been greatly improved over the last few years. A PCR-based assay has been

developed made available for diagnostic testing by the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon

State University‘s College of Veterinary Medicine (Tornquist, 2006, 2008). Specifity for M.

haemolamae was shown by failure to identify other than mycoplasma species like M. haemosuis,

M.haemofelis, and M. genitalium. All studies have elucidated, that many infections are subclinical,

and that clinical signs of infections with these organisms can vary widely. Clinical infections are

associated with fever, mild to marked anaemia, depression, icterus, infertility, oedema, poor growth

rate and mild to severe hypoglycaemia. It is not yet investigated, if these bacteriae may cause or serve

as co-factors in some forms of immune suppression.

Beside the haemotropic mycoplasmas, -classical‖ mycoplasmas have been investigated in


In spring 2011, a severe respiratory disease occurred in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan

affecting several thousand dromedaries with high mortality. Several promed reports were released.

From Iran, CVRL received blood and nasal swabs from diseased animals. Mycoplasma spp. were

isolated from several swabs. The results of this investigation are reported during the presentation.



Lascola, K., Vandis, M., Bain, P. and Bedenice, D. (2009). Concurrent infection with Anaplasma

phagocytophilium and Mycoplasma haemolamae in a young alpaca. J. Vet. Intern. Med.,23,


McLaughlin, B.G., Evans, C.N., McLaughlin, P.S., Johnson, L., Smith, A.R. and Zachary, J.F. (1990).

An Eperythrozoon-like parasite in llamas. JAVMA, 197 (9),1170-1175.

Semrad, S.D. (1994). Septicemic listeriosis, thrombocytopenia, blood parasitism and hepatopathy in a

Llama. JAVMA, 204 (2), 213-216.

Tornquist, S. (2006). Update on Mycoplasma haemolamae in camelids. Int. Camelid Health Conf. For

Veterinarians, 21-25.3.2006, 52-54.

Tornquist, S. (2008). Camelid haematology (including M.haemolamae) update. Proc. Int. Camelid

Hlth. Conf. For Vets. Ohio State University College of Vet. Med. 18.03.08, 214-217.

Wernery, U., Fowler, M.E. and Wernery, R. (1999). Color Atlas of Camelid Hematology. Blackwell

Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin, 37-43.




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