Free test to tackle Mycoplasma bovis - Veterinary Practice
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Free test to tackle Mycoplasma bovis

Farmers and vets can now access a free diagnostic support package to help tackle Mycoplasma bovis which is causing widespread disease in the UK

Mycoplasma bovis is of growing concern to farmers and vets, causing widespread disease in the UK – but now they can access a free diagnostic support package to help tackle it.

Mycoplasma bovis infection is now one of the most common causes of pneumonia in the UK,” says Graeme Fowlie of Meadows Vets. “It is often a primary invader but can be frequently under-diagnosed.”

The disease can also cause arthritis, swollen limbs and mastitis. “Because it has no cell wall, it’s difficult to treat with antibiotics. However, control options are improving – so it’s important to identify whether M. bovis is causing a problem on farm.”

The free package – Mycoplasma Assisted Diagnosis – launched by Meadows Vets in conjunction with Kernfarm, Merlin Vets and Livestock Health Scotland, is an important step to help farmers to tackle this endemic disease. Three forms of testing are available: Bulk milk PCR, serology testing of home bred calves over five months old, and post-mortem lung tissue PCR. These samples will be processed at Biobest, Edinburgh.

PCR tests are more likely to identify M. bovis than traditional culture, explains Paul Burr, lab director at Biobest. “With traditional culture, unless specifically requested, the presence of Mycoplasma may be missed or Mycoplasma growth overwhelmed by other bacteria. PCR tests can make it quite simple to find Mycoplasma in addition to other bacteria without complex culture requirements.

“In our laboratory we find M. bovis in approximately half of all our respiratory PCR multiplex tests; it is far more prevalent than many vets previously thought.”

The bacteria can often be the cause of “grumbling” problems in herds such as pneumonia, mastitis and joint ill, says Mr Fowlie. “I can assist vets to select which test will be most suitable for a particular situation. This will allow them to identify clients with problem herds.”

To help build a better picture of the disease, vets will also be asked to fill out a brief survey of the farm, he adds.

M. bovis is endemic in the UK’s dairy and beef herds, and is responsible for many more problems than would appear at first glance. Because treatment options are limited, it’s vital that we identify affected herds and introduce farm-specific management changes such as enhanced biosecurity, optimised treatment protocols and, where indicated via the vets’ prescribing cascade system, herd vaccination. Used together, the diagnostics and vaccine will help us to take back control.”

International Animal Health Journal recently published a paper by Mr Fowlie which tested the vaccine on several farms in Scotland. It found that vaccinating calves against Mycoplasma bovis significantly reduced post-weaning mortality and antibiotic use compared with controls. For more information visit the website or contact Graeme Fowlie on 01651 872481 or

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