Mycoplasmosis: Is Your Flock At Risk?

Written by Zamira Australia

Mycoplasmosis – Understanding the threat

What is Mycoplasmosis?

Mycoplasma refers to the bacteria themselves, while mycoplasmosis describes the diseases they cause. Mycoplasma stands as a significant bacterial menace in the global poultry industry, wreaking havoc on both broiler and laying birds. Its impact is far-reaching, manifesting in respiratory infections, arthritis, decreased egg production, and compromised bird health. Despite industry vigilance, mycoplasma-related maladies persist as a formidable challenge.

Why is Mycoplasma so complex?

Mycoplasma, being small and without a cell wall, presents a unique set of challenges. These slow-growing bacteria have complex nutritional needs and exhibit a distinct ‘fried egg’ appearance in culture media, underscoring their enigmatic nature.

What are the different strains of Mycoplasma?

Two predominant strains, Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) and Mycoplasma synoviae (MS), pose significant threats to poultry health. MG, known for its pathogenicity, and MS, with its increased sensitivity, together underscore the complexity of diagnosing and managing mycoplasmosis.

Mycoplasma: The Invisible Intruder

Transmission of mycoplasma occurs by stealth, often before visible symptoms emerge. Infected birds, acting as silent carriers, spread the disease through contact, respiratory secretions, and even contaminated materials.

Unseen Links: Understanding Transmission

Birds, animals, insects, and humans serve as conduits for mycoplasma transmission. From contaminated feed to infected eggs, the pathways are diverse and underscore the challenge of containment.

It Can All Begin With a Single Bird

Birds carrying mycoplasma can transmit the disease before showing any symptoms. Within a flock, transmission can occur through contact with the droppings, feathers, and respiratory secretions of infected birds. Moreover, mycoplasma can spread between flocks via airborne dust and wind. Its small size enables it to travel up to 8 kilometers in the air on dust or dander particles. Once infected, birds become carriers, capable of spreading the disease even after recovering or being removed from the flock.

Infection can remain concealed in certain birds for days to weeks. When birds experience stress, the disease can spread throughout the flock via respiratory secretions. Once birds become infected, they remain carriers for life, perpetuating the spread of the infection.

Brown Layer hens on poultry farm - preventing Mycoplasmosis with Zamityl Soluble | Zamira Australia

Animals and Insects

Animals and insects, including dogs, rats, beetles, and flies, have the potential to carry mycoplasma into bird-populated areas and transmit the infection to the flock.

Human Transmission and Fomite Contamination

Humans can unknowingly spread infection to flocks. Contaminated feed, water, cages, and farm tools used around birds carrying mycoplasma can transmit the bacteria to other birds. Infection can also be carried on shoes, clothing, skin, and hair, even without direct contact with birds. Mycoplasma can even reside in the human nose. Research on synthetic hair has revealed survival times of up to 9 days.

Environmental Persistence

Mycoplasma can survive for extended periods in moist litter, water, soil, and egg material. Certain strains of mycoplasma exhibit robust transmission and can persist in the environment. They remain infectious for 2 – 3 days on feathers and various materials such as cotton, rubber, and wood.

Mycoplasma Transmission from Hens to Chicks – What’s the Link?

Hens can transmit mycoplasma to their chicks through infected eggs, serving as a significant route of infection spread. This transmission from infected breeder birds to chicks is a major pathway for the spread of the infection. Infected chicks typically exhibit symptoms of mycoplasma within a few days after hatching.

Unmasking the Symptoms of Mycoplasmosis

Mycoplasmosis presents a spectrum of symptoms, from subtle to severe. Depressed behaviour, decreased feed intake, and respiratory distress are common, with morbidity often overshadowing mortality.

Symptoms of Mycoplasmosis can vary widely, but they often remain hidden until they’ve progressed significantly. Initially, birds may not show any noticeable signs, making early detection challenging. However, once symptoms manifest, they can be severe and diverse, affecting various aspects of bird health.

Visible symptoms

Visible symptoms typically include depression, reduced food and water intake, weight loss, decreased egg production, and abnormalities in eggshell appearance. Birds may exhibit signs such as gasping, foamy eyes, sneezing, nasal discharge, swollen eyelids, swollen joints, and blisters. Additionally, they may appear unkempt, with ruffled feathers, and exhibit lameness, making it difficult for them to stand or walk normally.

Hidden symptoms

Even in the absence of overt symptoms, the economic impact of Mycoplasmosis can be significant. It can cause subclinical infections and systemic reactions, affecting multiple organs such as the respiratory tract and joints. Mycoplasma’s ability to mutate rapidly and its varying strains further complicate diagnosis and management.

Synergistic Interactions: Mycoplasma’s Role in Complex Respiratory Infections

Mycoplasma can interact synergistically with other respiratory pathogens, exacerbating the severity of infections. When combined with secondary infections like Newcastle disease virus, Infectious Bronchitis virus, or E. coli, Mycoplasma can lead to acute and chronic systemic infections, further challenging bird health and production.

What is the Impact of Mycoplasmosis?

Beyond visible symptoms, mycoplasmosis inflicts unseen economic burdens, complicating diagnosis and treatment efforts. Its synergy with other pathogens exacerbates its impact, necessitating comprehensive management strategies.

Unveiling the Hidden Costs: Impact on Production

Mycoplasmosis in layer and breeder birds bring about significant repercussions, notably evident in the erratic patterns of egg production and the emergence of eggshell abnormalities. These issues, coupled with respiratory ailments and heightened mortality rates, pose substantial challenges for commercial producers, impacting production performance and international trade considerations.

Transmission to Broilers: Amplifying Challenges

The transmission of Mycoplasma to commercial broilers via infected eggs can trigger severe respiratory complications characterized by elevated mortality rates and lameness. Furthermore, Mycoplasmosis can disrupt feed conversion rates and uniformity in birds, exacerbating the likelihood of condemnations in processing plants.

Multi-Age Farm Complexities: Persistent Challenges

On multi-age poultry farms, Mycoplasma can persist primarily through infected birds, complicating eradication efforts. Once Mycoplasma infiltrates a poultry operation, depopulation and repopulation with Mycoplasma-free flocks become the sole means of eradication.

Taking Action: Treating Mycoplasmosis

Understanding Treatment Options

Once birds contract mycoplasmosis, treatment becomes imperative. While some may recover, others may remain carriers. Preventive measures to keep flocks mycoplasma-free are crucial. Antibiotic medication can alleviate symptoms, shorten recovery time, and reduce transmission to susceptible birds and production losses.

Challenges in Treatment

Most antibiotics target bacterial cell wall growth. However, since mycoplasma lack a cell wall, they are naturally resistant to such antibiotics. Nevertheless, specific antibiotic groups, such as macrolides, have shown effectiveness in controlling mycoplasma, reducing egg transmission, and managing respiratory diseases in birds.

Effective Antibiotic Therapy

In multi-age farms, an effective treatment regimen typically involves monthly antibiotic administration to keep mycoplasma levels low, as infected birds can remain carriers for life. When the mycoplasma field challenge is lower, therapy can be spaced out every 2 to 3 months.

Introducing Zamityl Soluble: Tailored Treatment for Your Flock

Broad-Spectrum Antibiotic

Zamityl Soluble (Tylvalosin), a third-generation veterinary macrolide antibiotic, offers a promising solution. It inhibits bacterial protein synthesis and growth, demonstrating excellent pharmacological properties and high antibacterial activity.

Enhanced Pharmacological Features

Zamityl Soluble is liposoluble, facilitating penetration through cell membranes to accumulate in the cytosol. Its high plasma concentration and antibacterial activity make it a dependable choice against susceptible bacteria in veterinary applications.

Zamityl Soluble is a highly effective, water soluble form of tylvalosin, an antimicrobial for use in poultry to control respiratory and enteric diseases | Zamira Australia

Zamityl Soluble shows good efficacy against:

  • Mycoplasma gallisepticum 
  • Mycoplasma synoviae
  • Clostridium spp.
  • Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale

Zamityl Soluble is used in the prevention and treatment of poultry diseases:

  • Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD)
  • Avian Mycoplasmosis
  • Clostridiosis
  • Ornithobacterium Infection

In addition to its direct antimicrobial effect, Tylvalosin exhibits anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activity. Tylvalosin administration significantly decreases tissue injury and reduces the inflammatory cells recruitment and activation.

 This contributes to the improvement of:

  • Average daily weight gain
  • Average daily feed consumption
  • Overall weight gain
  • Feed conversion efficiency
  • Greater uniformity
  • Fewer rejects
  • More consistent processing weights
  • Optimal egg production and eggshell quality

Zamira is an Australian animal health company with a mission to improve the health, wellbeing and productivity of animals through detection, prevention and treatment. Read more about us here.


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