Mycoplasmas in the News
A New Report Brings Mainstream Attention to Mycoplasma genitalium as an Important Sexually Transmitted Pathogen
A new report describes the prevalence of Mycoplasma genitalium in the British population, and the findings are consistent with other national and regional surveys. Two important things have helped this particular publication gain international attention in the mainstream press. The first is the authors' emphasis on M. genitalium rates as compared to the prevalence of gonorrhea, which indicate that the two are very comparable. The second was the absence of any M. genitalium infection in a control group of 200 patients who have never had sexual contact, thus formally confirming that M. genitalium is exclusively a sexually transmitted pathogen. The current MycoView post discusses the long-term health consequences of M. genitalium infection and the relationship between infection and HIV transmission. Much of the literature featuring the connection and mechanisms of this interaction has been authored by USOM members Dr. Pat Totten, Dr. Lisa Manhart, Dr. Subramanian Dhandayuthapani, and Dr. Chris McGowin.
A Novel Mycoplasma Species Causes Zoonotic Arthritis
A new report describes a case of severe septic arthritis in a seal hunter. The patient initially presented with "seal finger", a rare wound infection associated with Mycoplasma phocicerebrale. This case was remarkably different from previous "seal finger" cases in two important ways: 1.) M. phocicerebrale was NOT found, and 2.) the infection spread to the hip joints, resulting in critical illness. While the patient was hospitalized with septic arthritis, numerous treatment failures were experienced because the recommended treatments for most bacterial arthritis cases are ineffective against Mycoplasma infections. Once the detection of the novel Mycoplasma species occurred, treatment with an appropriate antibiotic (doxycycline) was initiated. The patient then recovered fully. Congratulations to USOM members Dr. Dan Brown and Dina Michaels for their work on this interesting case.
Ureaplasma Infection Shown to Be the Cause of Fatal Hyperammonemia in Human Patients
High serum levels of ammonia is a fatal complication experienced by immunosuppressed patients. Until a recent report in Science Translational Medicine by Ankit Bharat and colleagues, its etiology was unknown. Ureaplasma species are characterized by an ability to cleave urea, producing ammonia as a by-product. Normally the low levels of bacteria present in an immunocompetent individual produce a level of ammonia that is easily reprocessed into urea by the liver and cleared by the kidneys. In immunocompromised patients, bacterial levels rise while liver and kidney functions may be impaired. This combination of factors leads to an accumulation of ammonia which generates cerebral edema, and ultimately death. Congratulations to USOM members Dr. Ken Waites, Dr. Li Xiao, and Donna Crabb for their contributions to this exciting discovery.
Introducing MycoSynVac, a Consortium Project to Develop New Vaccines Against Agricultural Diseases
Mycoplasmosis of poultry, livestock, and commercial plants cause global economic losses in the billions of (US) dollars. New vaccines are desperately needed to eliminate the impact of these infections, which also threaten the food security of many around the world. A new research project called MycoSynVac, hosted and supported by the Centre for Genomic Regulation, aims to engineer synthetic Mycoplasma pneumoniae genomes encoding protective antigens from devastating agricultural pathogens. These vaccine strains would pose no threat of residual pathology, and would be easily distinguishable from natural infections. The backbone of this work is the synthetic biology that was pioneered by USOM member Dr. John Glass.
Rates of Macrolide Resistance in Mycoplasma pneumoniae on the Rise in the United States
Macrolides are the drug class of choice to treat community-acquired pneumonia caused by mycoplasmas. A recent report in Emerging Infectious Diseases by Xiaotian Zheng and colleagues demonstrated double-digit levels of macrolide-resistance by sampling six sites across the United States. Macrolide resistance is prevalent in Asia and has been increasing steadily in Europe, but before now its predominance in the United States was unknown. This report provides a valuable contribution to future treatment recommendations for community-acquired pneumonia. Congratulations to USOM members Dr. Xiaotian Zheng, Dr. Prescott Atkinson, Dr. Ken Waites, Dr. Li Xiao, Amy Ratliff, and Donna Crabb for their contributions to this exciting discovery.
Schematic representation of Mycoplasma pneumoniae based on simultaneous transcriptomic, proteomic, and tomography studies in one of the first complete "systems biology" reports [Image: Kuhner et al., 2009]
Septic joint in a chicken with avian mycoplasmosis due to Mycoplasma synoviae [Image: Ferguson-Noel 2010]
Chest X-ray indicating "walking pneumonia" caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, in a human [Image: Lukesh Guglani]
House finch conjunctivitis caused by Mycoplasma gallisepticum following a host jump from poultry serves as an excellent model for studying emerging infectious diseases [Image:Ley et al., 1997]
A colony of Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. capri JCVIsyn1.0, the world's first synthetically created organism [Image: Gibson et al., 2010]
Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae, a feature of porcine respiratory disease complex, attaching to swine cilia to establish infection
Ribosomal phylogram representing all 3 domains of life. The class Mollicutes (indicated) show the deepest branches, and appear to be among the most rapidly evolving living things [Image: M. May, via iTOL]
Scanning electron microscopy images of Mycoplasma amphoriforme in process of dividing, as indicated by multiple attachment organelles
[Image: Hatchel et al., 2006]