My­coplasma bo­vis much worse than frog in throat

Irish Examiner - Farming - - DAIRY SECTOR - Paul Red­mond, MVB, MRCVS, Cert DHH, Dun­ta­hane Ve­teri­nary Clinic, Fer­moy, mem­ber prac­tice of Prime Health Vets

Last week, I was talk­ing a bit about causes of pneu­mo­nia in cat­tle and cows.

At the end of the ar­ti­cle, I men­tioned about my­coplasma bo­vis. Some farm­ers are very aware of this dis­ease, be­cause they have had un­told prob­lems from it.

This is a bac­terium that some would have us be­lieve was brought into this coun­try when the quar­an­tine laws were re­laxed, and free move­ment al­lowed im­por­ta­tion of cat­tle from France, the Nether­lands, and fur­ther afield. Un­for­tu­nately, as his­tory has taught us, some of these an­i­mals also brought dis­eases with them that we did not pre­vi­ously have in this coun­try. My­coplasma was one of these dis­eases. It is a fairly ba­sic form of bac­terium, and it does not have a cell wall.

The main way that it en­ters the an­i­mal is through the mouth and nose.

Un­like a lot of other agents that cause pneu­mo­nia, this my­coplasma is ap­par­ently not car­ried on the wind, and is trans­ferred from one an­i­mal to the next by di­rect con­tact.

This may be by the use of a cat­tle tongs with­out dis­in­fect­ing in be­tween an­i­mals.

It may be by means of the nip­ple on ei­ther a milk bucket or an au­to­matic feeder. Since this my­coplasma can also cause mas­ti­tis, calves suck­ing an in­fected cow will also pick it up. Once an an­i­mal has this my­coplasma, then it is a car­rier for life, so you can ap­pre­ci­ate the need for vig­i­lance and also the pos­si­ble need for erad­i­ca­tion from your farm if you have it.

The prob­lem is so great in New Zealand at present, that the govern­ment there has started an erad­i­ca­tion pro­gramme and they ex­pect to cull at least 120,000 an­i­mals to achieve erad­i­ca­tion.

This should alert farm­ers to the need to be ex­tra vig­i­lant when buy­ing in an­i­mals, and to ques­tion if you re­ally need to buy in at all. Talk to your vet about what pre­cau­tions you need to take.

Once the my­coplasma en­ters the an­i­mal, it loves at­tach­ing it­self to the mu­cous mem­branes that line the in­side of the mouth and nose, the phar­ynx, the wind­pipe and the oe­soph­a­gus. Be­ing in the back of the throat, it is hand­ily placed to in­fect any mu­cus and snot that leaves the an­i­mal, and this is how it spreads from one an­i­mal to the next, when they are in close win­ter con­fine­ment in the house. It has been re­ported that fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of an in­fected an­i­mal to a calf rear­ing house in Italy, it took only a few weeks for 100% of the calves to be­come in­fected.

Since the my­coplasma is based in the back of the throat, it can make its way up the tube con­nect­ing from there to the ear, and will then cause mid­dle ear in­fec­tions which may or may not show pus. These, calves usu­ally, may show a tilt­ing of the head due to pain in the ear. When it causes mas­ti­tis in the cow, the ud­der be­comes swollen, but with­out pain, and the so­matic cell count goes through the roof. This kind of mas­ti­tis is par­tic­u­larly un­re­spon­sive to most of the avail­able an­tibi­otics. It has also been re­spon­si­ble for se­vere joint in­fec­tions in cows and calves, and again, these prove al­most im­pos­si­ble to cure.

It is a prob­lem with cat­tle all over the world and although there is no cause for con­cern for hu­mans con­sum­ing the meat or milk from any in­fected an­i­mal, there is ma­jor con­cern for an­i­mal wel­fare and pro­duc­tiv­ity of herds that be­come in­fected with my­coplasma. If you are un­lucky to be af­fected by this dis­ease, you should con­tact your lo­cal vet for more in­for­ma­tion.

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