Mycoplasma refers to a family (also known as a genus) of bacteria that lack a cell wall. This means that common antibiotics such as penicillin, or other cell wall synthesis (the combination of several entities to form something different (such as the process by which amino acids form proteins, or proteins form an organelle)) targeting antibiotics (also known as beta-lactam antibiotics). They can be parasitic (living off other organisms) or saprotrophic (living off dead or decomposing matter).
Mycoplasma in Chickens
The most common type of mycoplasma affecting chickens is mycoplasma gallisepticum. This type of mycoplasma is parasitic, and affects chickens, wild birds, turkeys, pigeons and other fowl. It is the causative agent of chronic respiratory disease (CRD) in chickens and infectious sinusitis in game birds, turkeys, pigeons etcetera. It is transmitted either through the eggs of carrier hens, or by chicken to chicken (airborne) transmission. It is highly contagious and is spread rapidly when the birds sneeze.
Some breeders breed without the knowledge that their flock is infected, therefore passing the disease on. Stress is thought to lower the resistance to the mycoplasma bacteria, and the disease sets in and the birds begin to exhibit symptoms. Some people dismiss this as the ‘common cold’, or think its ‘nothing’ and the disease is allowed to run riot throughout the stock.
- Rasping or rattling in the throat
- Foamy eyes and nose
More advanced symptoms include:
- Loud, sharp ”Coughing” noise
- Stretching legs and wings, sometimes trailing them
- Difficulty balancing, sometimes even falling over
Diagnosis is generally based on symptoms, and a blood test at the vets will give definite results. A course of medication will follow. Tylan is recommended for this purpose, but it is only available on prescription.
Some people recommend Tylan injections rather than tylan oral, as this is faster and usually more efficient.
A vaccination is now available. The F-Strain is a low pathogenicity strain which gives immunity to the birds for the laying season, but leaves them as carriers. It is, however, fully virulent for turkeys. Recently, 6/85 and ts-11 were introduced. These two live nonpathogenic strains give immunity, without making the inoculated bird a carrier.