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Mycoplasma Infection and Feline Asthma-Chronic Bronchitis

Schulz BS, Richter P, Weber K, et al. Detection of feline Mycoplasma species in cats with feline asthma and chronic bronchitis. J Feline Med Surg. 2014; 16(12):943-949.

species are small bacteria lacking a peptidoglycan cell wall that belong to the normal bacterial flora of the upper airway in cats.  This organism has been detected in cats with upper respiratory infections, with lower respiratory tract infections, and with inflammatory bronchial diseases such as feline asthma or chronic bronchitis.  In addition, infections with Mycoplasma pneumoniae has recently been identified as an important etiological pathogen in human childhood pneumonia cases and can precede the onset of or exacerbate human asthma.  It is thought that mycoplasma infection may also cause or exacerbate lower chronic lung bronchial disease in cats and it is therefore worth investigating.

Researchers from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Munich, Germany investigated the role of Mycoplasma species in cats with feline asthma and/or chronic bronchitis by comparing data from cats with lower chronic lung bronchial disease with cats without clinical or historical signs of respiratory tract disease.   Seventeen cats diagnosed with feline asthma or chronic bronchitis and 14 sick cats without clinical or historical signs of lower respiratory tract disease were examined for presence of Mycoplasma species in their upper respiratory tract obtained by nasal swabs and lower respiratory tract obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage (BALF).  Presences of Mycoplasma species were determined by culturing and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Mycoplasma species-PCR positive samples where further analyzed to differentiate subspecies.

Mycoplasma species could be detected in cats with chronic lung bronchial diseases and the control group. The number of Mycoplasma species -positive BALF samples between the two groups was not significantly different.  Sequencing revealed Mycoplasma felis in all PCR-positive samples. However, the number of cats in this study was low and the control group was not healthy cats but sick cats that were humanely euthanized due to other diseases.  Some of these sick cats also receive immunosuppressive medications that could affect the results.  In future studies, quantitative real-time PCR may be helpful to better differentiate between cats with low and high numbers of Mycoplasma organisms in the lower respiratory tract.  The researchers suggest that Mycoplasma species may be a normal resident of the lower respiratory tract of cats, but there is insufficient evidence from this study to make this conclusion, thus, further studies are warranted. [GO]

See also:
Reed N, Simpson K, Ayling R, et al.  Mycoplasma species in cats with lower airway disease: improved detection and species identification using a polymerase chain reaction assay. J Feline Med Surg. 2012 Dec; 14(12): 833–840, 2012.