Real-Time PCR Detection of Hemotropic Mycoplasmas in Healthy and Unhealthy Cats from the Barcelona Area (Spain)
Sparse information exists regarding hemotropic mycoplasmas (hemoplasmas) in Spanish cats. Although a few surveys have previously reported their presence in wild or domestic feline species, little data exists describing the identity of these organisms. Three feline hemoplasmas have been recognized: Mycoplasma haemofelis (Mhf), 'Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum' (Mhm) and 'Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis' (Mtc). The pathogenicity of the hemoplasmas is variable with infection varying from being asymptomatic to inducing a severe hemolytic syndrome. Severity of illness is influenced by the infecting hemoplasma species and presence of concurrent diseases/infections.
The aims of the present study were 1) to determine the prevalence of hemoplasmas in cats presenting to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital of Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain) using species-specific real-time PCR (qPCR) assays and 2) to evaluate any associations between hemoplasma infection, clinical presentation and other co-infections. Statistical differences between groups were tested for significance by the Fisher exact test using SPSS v.14.0 software. A p-value < 0.05 was regarded as statistically significant.
Ninety one blood samples were entered into the study and were classified, based on information in the clinical records (reason for presentation, clinical signs, physical examination findings, hematology and serum biochemistry results), as healthy (n = 44) or unhealthy (n = 47). EDTA-blood samples underwent DNA extraction, and qPCR assays were performed to detect Mhf, Mhm and Mtc. The cats comprised 42 males and 49 females ranging in age from 1.3 to 17.1 years (median age 5.9 years). Breeds comprised domestic shorthairs (n = 58), Persians (n = 18), Russian Blues (n = 2), British shorthairs (n = 1) and unknown (n = 12). All samples had previously been assessed for Hepatozoon spp., Babesia spp., Ehrlichia spp., Anaplasma spp., Rickettsia spp., Bartonella spp. and Leishmania infantum DNA via PCR, and 54 available serum samples had been tested for FeLV antigen and FIV antibody. Organisms previously detected were Hepatozoon felis (n=3), Leishmania infantum (n=2), Ehrlichia/Anaplasma sp. (n=1), FIV (n=5) and FeLV (n= 2). Hemoplasma qPCR detected Mhf (n=3; 1 healthy and 2 unhealthy) and Mhm (n=9; 4 healthy and 5 unhealthy) but no Mtc. One unhealthy cat was co-infected with Mhf and Mhm. Health status, sex, age, breed, other vector-borne infections and FIV/FeLV status were not significantly associated with positive hemoplasma qPCR results.
The results of this study confirm the presence of two different feline hemoplasma species, Mhf and Mhm, amongst cats from the Barcelona area (Spain), albeit with a low prevalence of 3.3% and 9.9% respectively. No evidence of Mtc infection was found in this sample of cats.