At least three haemotropic mycoplasmas have been recognized in cats: Mycoplasma haemofelis (Mhf), ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum’ (CMhm) and ‘Candidatus M. turicensis’ (CMt). The latter was originally identified in a Swiss pet cat with haemolytic anaemia and shown to be prevalent in domestic cats and wild felids worldwide using molecular methods. So far, there has been no confirmatory morphological evidence of the existence of CMt presumably due to low blood loads during infection while CMhm has only been characterized by light microscopy with discrepant results. This study aimed to provide for the first time electron microscopic characteristics of CMt and CMhm and to compare them to Mhf. Blood samples from cats experimentally infected with CMt, CMhm and Mhf were used to determine copy numbers in blood by real-time PCR and for transmission and scanning electron microscopy. High resolution scanning electron microscopy revealed CMt and CMhm to be discoid-shaped organisms of 0.3 μm in diameter attached to red blood cells (RBCs). In transmission electron microscopy of CMt, an oval organism of about 0.25 μm with several intracellular electron dense structures was identified close to the surface of a RBC. CMhm and CMt exhibited similar morphology to Mhf but had a smaller diameter. This is the first study to provide morphological evidence of CMt thereby confirming its status as a distinct haemoplasma species, and to present electron microscopic features of CMhm.
‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’; ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum’; Haemoplasma; Haemotropic Mycoplasma; Electron microscopy; Real-time PCR
Concomitantly with an outbreak of fatal anaplasmosis in a cattle herd in Switzerland in 2002, we detected two bovine hemoplasma species in diseased animals: Mycoplasma wenyonii (formerly Eperythrozoon wenyonii) and a second, novel bovine hemoplasma species later designated “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemobos” (synonym, “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemobovis”). The second species was characterized by a shorter 16S rRNA gene. The aims of the present study were to provide a detailed molecular characterization of this species, to develop specific quantitative real-time PCR assays for the two bovine hemoplasma species, and to apply these assays in order to evaluate the prevalence and clinical significance of the hemoplasmas. Sequencing of the near-complete 16S rRNA gene of the second hemoplasma revealed that it was 94% identical to that of Mycoplasma haemofelis, an anemia-inducing feline hemoplasma species, but less than 85% identical to that of the bovine hemoplasma M. wenyonii. Using the newly developed assays, a total of 159 animals from the anaplasmosis outbreak were reexamined. In addition, we tested 57 clinically ill and 61 healthy Swiss cattle, as well as 47 calves. Both hemoplasmas were highly prevalent in adult cattle but occurred rarely in calves. Animals from the herd with the fatal anemia outbreak were more frequently infected with M. wenyonii and exhibited higher M. wenyonii blood loads than animals with unrelated diseases and healthy animals. Coinfections may increase the pathogenicity and clinical significance of bovine hemoplasmosis.
The aim of this study was to use fluorescence in-situ hybridisation (FISH) to search for the tissues and cell types important in survival and persistence of Mycoplasma haemofelis, “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” or “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” in infected cats. A 16S rDNA probe for each species was applied to formalin-fixed, paraffin wax-embedded tissues sections collected from experimentally infected cats.
Tissues (n = 12) were collected, at necropsy, from ten cats which had been infected with M. haemofelis, and one each with “Ca. M. haemominutum” and “Ca. M. turicensis”. M. haemofelis specific hybridisation was present on red blood cells (RBCs) in all tissues from acutely infected cats, but not the majority of tissues from chronically infected cats. “Ca. M. haemominutum” specific hybridisation was present on scattered RBCs within the spleen and liver. Specific probe hybridisation was not detected in any of the “Ca. M. turicensis” infected tissues.
Haemoplasmas were detected on the surface of RBCs only and not any other cell type. Additionally, FISH was limited by sensitivity and could not detect the lower numbers of organisms present in tissues of cats chronically infected with M. haemofelis. Occasional organisms were detected in cats acutely infected with “Ca. M. haemominutum” but not “Ca. M. turicensis”.
Haemoplasma; Mycoplasma haemofelis; “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum”; “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis”; Fluorescence in-situ hybridisation
"Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis" infects felids. The pathogenesis of "Candidatus M. turicensis" chronic infection is poorly understood. The goals of the present study were to (1) induce reactivation of the infection in chronic carrier cats by attempted immunosuppression, (2) identify potential tissue sequestration using real-time TaqMan® PCR and (3) monitor the humoral immune response by DnaK enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Ten specified pathogen-free cats that had ostensibly recovered from experimental "Candidatus M. turicensis" infection were used: five cats (group 1) received high dose methylprednisolone (attempted immunosuppression), while five cats served as untreated controls (group 2). Besides weekly blood samples, tissue samples were collected from bone marrow, kidney, liver and salivary glands at selected time points. The cats in group 1 had significantly lower lymphocyte counts and higher blood glucose levels after methylprednisolone administration than the controls. After methylprednisolone administration one blood and three tissue samples from cats in group 1 tested PCR-positive; before the administration, only one sample was positive. All other samples tested PCR-negative. All cats stayed seropositive; the antibody levels of the cats in group 1 showed a significant transient decrease after methylprednisolone administration. This is the first study to report the presence of "Candidatus M. turicensis" in tissues of chronically infected cats and the persistence of anti-feline hemoplasma antibodies in the absence of detectable bacteremia. Methylprednisolone administration did not lead to a significant reactivation of the infection. Our results enhance the knowledge of "Candidatus M. turicensis" infection pathogenesis and are clinically relevant to the prognosis of hemoplasma-infected cats.
The natural transmission routes of the three feline haemotropic mycoplasmas – Mycoplasma haemofelis, ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum’, and ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’ (CMt) – are largely unknown. Since CMt has been detected in the saliva of infected cats using PCR, we hypothesised that direct transmission via social or aggressive contact may occur. The aim of this study was to evaluate this transmission route. CMt-positive saliva and blood samples were obtained from three prednisolone-treated specific pathogen-free (SPF) cats that were infected intraperitoneally with CMt. Five SPF cats were inoculated with CMt-positive saliva or blood subcutaneously to mimic cat bites, and five cats were inoculated orally with blood or oronasally with saliva to mimic social contact. Blood samples were monitored for CMt infection using quantitative real-time PCR and for seroconversion using a novel western blot assay. Neither oronasal nor subcutaneous inoculation with CMt-positive saliva led to CMt infection in the recipient cats, as determined by PCR, independent of prior prednisolone treatment. However, when blood containing the same CMt dose was given subcutaneously, 4 of the 5 cats became PCR-positive, while none of the 5 cats inoculated orally with up to 500 μL of CMt-positive blood became PCR-positive. Subsequently, the latter cats were successfully subcutaneously infected with blood. All 13 CMt-exposed cats seroconverted. In conclusion, CMt transmission by social contact seems less likely than transmission by aggressive interaction. The latter transmission may occur if the recipient cat is exposed to blood from an infected cat.
haemotropic mycoplasma; transmission; ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’; real-time TaqMan PCR; seroconversion
Hemotropic mycoplasmas (hemoplasmas) are the causative agents of infectious anemia in several mammalian species. Their zoonotic potential has recently been substantiated by the identification of a feline hemoplasma isolate in an immunocompromised human patient. Although species-specific diagnostic molecular methods have been developed, their application as screening tools is limited due to the species diversity of hemoplasmas. The goals of this study were to develop a universal hemoplasma screening assay with broad specificity based on the SYBR green PCR principle, to compare the assay with hemoplasma-specific TaqMan PCR, and to analyze potential tick vectors and human blood samples to address the zoonotic potential. The newly developed PCR assay based on the 16S rRNA gene amplified feline, canine, bovine, porcine, camelid, and murine hemoplasmas, as well as Mycoplasma penetrans and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. The lower detection limit for feline and canine hemoplasmas was 1 to 10 copies/PCR. The assay exhibited 98.2% diagnostic sensitivity and 92.1% diagnostic specificity for feline hemoplasmas. All 1,950 Ixodes ticks were PCR negative, suggesting that Ixodes ticks are not relevant vectors for the above-mentioned hemoplasma species in Switzerland. None of the 414 blood samples derived from anemic or immunocompromised human patients revealed a clear positive result. The SYBR green PCR assay described here is a suitable tool to screen for known and so-far-undiscovered hemoplasma species. Positive results should be confirmed by specific TaqMan PCR or sequencing.
The aim of the study was to describe blood and tissue copy number distribution during Mycoplasma haemofelis infection and determine if sequestration of organisms in body tissues could explain blood copy number cycling in infected cats. Thirteen domestic–shorthaired cats were used. Blood samples were regularly collected, and at a differing time point post-infection for each cat, tissue samples also collected, for quantitative PCR (qPCR). Absolute haemoplasma copy numbers were calculated for all blood and tissue samples, as well as an estimation of the ratio of tissue haemoplasma copy number to that expected in the tissue if a positive qPCR result arose due to tissue blood supply alone. Cats with high or moderate M. haemofelis blood copy numbers at the time of tissue collection had fewer M. haemofelis copies in most tissues than expected due to the tissue blood supply alone; only splenic and lung tissues consistently contained more M. haemofelis. However tissues collected from cats at a time of very low M. haemofelis blood copy numbers, when putative copy number cycling nadirs were occurring, were usually qPCR negative. Hence no evidence of significant tissue M. haemofelis sequestration was found in this study to explain the copy number cycling reported with this feline haemoplasma species.
Haemoplasma; Quantitative real-time PCR; Sequestration, M. haemofelis
The aim of this study was to compare blood copy, haematological and glucose values between cats experimentally infected with either Mycoplasma haemofelis (Group HF: 10 cats), ‘Candidatus M. haemominutum’ (Group HM: 3 cats) or ‘Candidatus M. turicensis’ (Group TU: 3 cats). Blood samples were collected regularly up to 85 days post-infection (DPI) for haemoplasma real-time quantitative PCR, haematology, Coombs’ testing and blood glucose measurement. Statistical analysis was performed using a general linear model (ANOVA) appropriate for a repeated measures experiment with significance set as P < 0.05. Cats in Group TU had significantly lower blood copy numbers than cats in Group HF (P < 0.001) and HM (P < 0.001). All Group HF cats developed anaemia (often severe), macrocytosis and evidence of erythrocyte-bound antibodies whereas Groups HM and TU cats did not. Group HF had significantly lower PCVs, haemoglobin concentrations and red blood cell counts, and significantly higher mean cell volumes, than Groups HM and TU. In Group HF, erythrocyte-bound antibodies reactive at 4 °C (both IgM and IgG) appeared between 8 and 22 DPI and persisted for two to four weeks, whereas those reactive at 37 °C (primarily IgG) appeared between 22 and 29 DPI and persisted for one to five weeks. In most cats antibodies appeared after the fall in haemoglobin started. Although Group TU had significantly lower glucose concentrations than Groups HF (P = 0.006) and HM (P = 0.027), mean blood glucose concentrations remained within the reference range in all groups. This study demonstrates that M. haemofelis infection, in contrast to ‘Candidatus M. haemominutum’ and ‘Candidatus M. turicensis’ infection, can result in a severe macrocytic anaemia and the development of cold and warm reactive erythrocyte-bound antibodies.
Haemoplasma; Quantitative real-time PCR; Coombs’ test; Autoagglutination; Glucose
Rickettsia helvetica, a tick-borne member of the spotted-fever-group rickettsiae, is a suspected pathogen in humans; however, its role in animals is unknown. The aims of this study were to establish a R. helvetica-specific real-time TaqMan PCR assay and apply it to the analysis of tick vectors (to determine potential exposure risk) and blood samples from Canidae and humans (to determine prevalence of infection). The newly designed 23S rRNA gene assay for R. helvetica was more sensitive than a published citrate synthase gene (gltA) assay for several rickettsiae. Blood samples from 884 dogs, 58 foxes, and 214 human patients and 2,073 ticks (Ixodes spp.) collected from either vegetation or animals were analyzed. Although the maximal likelihood estimate of prevalence was 12% in unfed ticks and 36% in ticks collected from animals, none of the 1,156 blood samples tested PCR positive. Ticks from cats were more frequently PCR positive than ticks from dogs. Sequencing of the 23S rRNA and/or the gltA gene of 17 tick pools confirmed the presence of R. helvetica. Additionally, Rickettsia monacensis, which has not been previously found in Switzerland, was identified. In conclusion, R. helvetica was frequently detected in the tick population but not in blood samples. Nevertheless, due to the broad host range of Ixodes ticks and the high rate of infestation with this agent (i.e., R. helvetica was 13 times more frequent in unfed ticks than the tick-borne encephalitis virus), many mammals may be exposed to R. helvetica. The PCR assay described here represents an important tool for studying this topic.
The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is considered the most endangered felid species in the world. In order to save this species, the Spanish authorities implemented a captive breeding program recruiting lynxes from the wild. In this context, a retrospective survey on prevalence of selected feline pathogens in free-ranging lynxes was initiated.
Methodology/ Principal Findings
We systematically analyzed the prevalence and importance of seven viral, one protozoan (Cytauxzoon felis), and several bacterial (e.g., hemotropic mycoplasma) infections in 77 of approximately 200 remaining free-ranging Iberian lynxes of the Doñana and Sierra Morena areas, in Southern Spain, between 2003 and 2007. With the exception of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), evidence of infection by all tested feline pathogens was found in Iberian lynxes. Fourteen lynxes were feline leukemia virus (FeLV) provirus-positive; eleven of these were antigenemic (FeLV p27 positive). All 14 animals tested negative for other viral infections. During a six-month period in 2007, six of the provirus-positive antigenemic lynxes died. Infection with FeLV but not with other infectious agents was associated with mortality (p<0.001). Sequencing of the FeLV surface glycoprotein gene revealed a common origin for ten of the eleven samples. The ten sequences were closely related to FeLV-A/61E, originally isolated from cats in the USA. Endogenous FeLV sequences were not detected.
It was concluded that the FeLV infection most likely originated from domestic cats invading the lynx's habitats. Data available regarding the time frame, co-infections, and outcome of FeLV-infections suggest that, in contrast to the domestic cat, the FeLV strain affecting the lynxes in 2007 is highly virulent to this species. Our data argue strongly for vaccination of lynxes and domestic cats in and around lynx's habitats in order to prevent further spread of the virus as well as reduction the domestic cat population if the lynx population is to be maintained.
Partial sequences of the RNase P RNA gene (rnpB) were obtained from a number of hemoplasmas and other Mycoplasma species. Phylogenetic analysis of these sequences showed that all hemoplasmas were present within a single clade and were most closely related to Mycoplasma fastidiosum, similar to the results found with 16S rRNA gene phylogeny.
Three hemotropic mycoplasmas have been identified in pet cats: Mycoplasma haemofelis, “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum,” and “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis.” The way in which these agents are transmitted is largely unknown. Thus, this study aimed to investigate fleas, ticks, and rodents as well as saliva and feces from infected cats for the presence of hemotropic mycoplasmas, to gain insight into potential transmission routes for these agents. DNA was extracted from arthropods and from rodent blood or tissue samples from Switzerland and from salivary and fecal swabs from two experimentally infected and six naturally infected cats. All samples were analyzed with real-time PCR, and some positive samples were confirmed by sequencing. Feline hemotropic mycoplasmas were detected in cat fleas and in a few Ixodes sp. and Rhipicephalus sp. ticks collected from animals but not in ticks collected from vegetation or from rodent samples, although the latter were frequently Mycoplasma coccoides PCR positive. When shedding patterns of feline hemotropic mycoplasmas were investigated, “Ca. Mycoplasma turicensis” DNA was detected in saliva and feces at the early but not at the late phase of infection. M. haemofelis and “Ca. Mycoplasma haemominutum” DNA was not amplified from saliva and feces of naturally infected cats, despite high hemotropic mycoplasma blood loads. Our results suggest that besides an ostensibly indirect transmission by fleas, direct transmission through saliva and feces at the early phase of infection could play a role in the epizootiology of feline hemotropic mycoplasmas. Neither the investigated tick nor the rodent population seems to represent a major reservoir for feline hemotropic mycoplasmas in Switzerland.
While hemoplasma infections in domestic cats are well studied, almost no information is available on their occurrence in wild felids. The aims of the present study were to investigate wild felid species as possible reservoirs of feline hemoplasmas and the molecular characterization of the hemoplasma isolates. Blood samples from the following 257 wild felids were analyzed: 35 Iberian lynxes from Spain, 36 Eurasian lynxes from Switzerland, 31 European wildcats from France, 45 lions from Tanzania, and 110 Brazilian wild felids, including 12 wild felid species kept in zoos and one free-ranging ocelot. Using real-time PCR, feline hemoplasmas were detected in samples of the following species: Iberian lynx, Eurasian lynx, European wildcat, lion, puma, oncilla, Geoffroy's cat, margay, and ocelot. “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” was the most common feline hemoplasma in Iberian lynxes, Eurasian lynxes, Serengeti lions, and Brazilian wild felids, whereas “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” was the most prevalent in European wildcats; hemoplasma coinfections were frequently observed. Hemoplasma infection was associated with species and free-ranging status of the felids in all animals and with feline leukemia virus provirus-positive status in European wildcats. Phylogenetic analyses of the 16S rRNA and the partial RNase P gene revealed that most hemoplasma isolates exhibit high sequence identities to domestic cat-derived isolates, although some isolates form different subclusters within the phylogenetic tree. In conclusion, 9 out of 15 wild felid species from three different continents were found to be infected with feline hemoplasmas. The effect of feline hemoplasma infections on wild felid populations needs to be further investigated.
Two hemotropic mycoplasmas have been recognized in cats, Mycoplasma haemofelis and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum.” We recently described a third feline hemoplasma species, designated “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis,” in a Swiss cat with hemolytic anemia. This isolate induced anemia after experimental transmission to two specific-pathogen-free cats and analysis of the 16S rRNA gene revealed its close relationship to rodent hemotropic mycoplasmas. The agent was recently shown to be prevalent in Swiss pet cats. We sought to investigate the presence and clinical importance of “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection in pet cats outside of Switzerland and to perform the molecular characterization of isolates from different countries. A “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis”-specific real-time PCR assay was applied to blood samples from 426 United Kingdom (UK), 147 Australian, and 69 South African pet cats. The 16S rRNA genes of isolates from different countries were sequenced and signalment and laboratory data for the cats were evaluated for associations with “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection. Infections were detected in samples from UK, Australian, and South African pet cats. Infection was associated with the male gender, and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” and M. haemofelis coinfection. Coinfected cats exhibited significantly lower packed cell volume (PCV) values than uninfected cats. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that some Australian and South African “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” isolates branched away from the remaining isolates. In summary, “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection in pet cats exists over a wide geographical area and significantly decreased PCV values are observed in cats coinfected with other feline hemoplasmas.
Recently, a third novel feline hemotropic Mycoplasma sp. (aka hemoplasma), “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis,” in a cat with hemolytic anemia has been described. This is the first study to investigate the prevalence, clinical manifestations, and risk factors for all three feline hemoplasma infections in a sample of 713 healthy and ill Swiss cats using newly designed quantitative real-time PCR assays. “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” infection was detected in 7.0% and 8.7% and Mycoplasma haemofelis was detected in 2.3% and 0.2% of healthy and ill cats, respectively. “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” was only detected in six ill cats (1.1%); three of them were coinfected with “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum.” The 16S rRNA gene sequence of 12 Swiss hemoplasma isolates revealed >98% similarity with previously published sequences. Hemoplasma infection was associated with male gender, outdoor access, and old age but not with retrovirus infection and was more frequent in certain areas of Switzerland. “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum”-infected ill cats were more frequently diagnosed with renal insufficiency and exhibited higher renal blood parameters than uninfected ill cats. No correlation between hemoplasma load and packed cell volume was found, although several hemoplasma-infected cats, some coinfected with feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus, showed hemolytic anemia. High M. haemofelis loads (>9 × 105 copies/ml blood) seem to lead to anemia in acutely infected cats but not in recovered long-term carriers. A repeated evaluation of 17 cats documented that the infection was acquired in one case by blood transfusion and that there were important differences among species regarding whether or not antibiotic administration led to the resolution of bacteremia.
Recently, there has been a growing interest in hemotropic mycoplasmal species (also known as the hemoplasmas), the causative agents of infectious anemia in several mammalian species. In felids, two different hemoplasma species have been recognized: Mycoplasma haemofelis (formerly Haemobartonella felis) and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum.” Recently developed molecular methods have allowed sensitive and specific identification and quantification of these agents in feline blood samples. In applying these methods to an epidemiological study surveying the Swiss pet cat population for hemoplasma infection, we discovered a third novel and unique feline hemoplasma isolate in a blood sample collected from a cat that had exhibited clinical signs of severe hemolytic anemia. This agent was readily transmitted via intravenous inoculation to two specific-pathogen-free cats. One of these cats was immunocompromised by the administration of methylprednisolone acetate prior to inoculation, and this cat developed severe anemia. The other immunocompetent cat showed a moderate decrease in packed cell volume. Additionally, an increase in red blood cell osmotic fragility was observed. Sequencing of the entire 16S rRNA gene of the new hemoplasma isolate and phylogenetic analysis showed that the isolate was most closely related to two rodent hemotropic mycoplasmal species, M. coccoides and M. haemomuris. A quantitative real-time PCR assay specific for this newly discovered agent was developed, which will be a prerequisite for the diagnosis of infections with the new hemoplasma isolate.
Bovine anaplasmosis is a vector-borne disease that results in substantial economic losses in other parts of the world but so far not in northern Europe. In August 2002, a fatal disease outbreak was reported in a large dairy herd in the Swiss canton of Grisons. Diseased animals experienced fever, anorexia, agalactia, and depression. Anemia, ectoparasite infestation, and, occasionally, hemoglobinuria were observed. To determine the roles of vector-borne pathogens and to characterize the disease, blood samples were collected from all 286 animals: 50% of the cows were anemic. Upon microscopic examination of red blood cells, Anaplasma marginale inclusion bodies were found in 47% of the cows. The infection was confirmed serologically and by molecular methods. Interestingly, we also found evidence of infections with Anaplasma phagocytophilum, large Babesia and Theileria spp., and Mycoplasma wenyonii. The last two species had not previously been described in Switzerland. Anemia was significantly associated with the presence of the infectious agents detected, with the exception of A. phagocytophilum. Remarkably, concurrent infections with up to five infectious vector-borne agents were detected in 90% of the ill animals tested by PCR. We concluded that A. marginale was the major cause of the hemolytic anemia, while coinfections with other agents exacerbated the disease. This was the first severe disease outbreak associated with concurrent infections with vector-borne pathogens in alpine Switzerland; it was presumably curtailed by culling of the entire herd. It remains to be seen whether similar disease outbreaks will have to be anticipated in northern Europe in the future.