Molecular epidemiology of Mycoplasma conjunctivae in Caprinae: transmission across species in natural outbreaks.
Mycoplasma conjunctivae is the etiological agent of infectious keratoconjunctivitis, a highly contagious ocular infection that affects both domestic and wild Caprinae species in the European Alps. In order to study the transmission and spread of M. conjunctivae across domestic and wild Caprinae populations, we developed a molecular method for subtyping and identifying strains of M. conjunctivae. This method is based on DNA sequence determination of a variable domain within the gene lppS, a gene that encodes an antigenic lipoprotein of M. conjunctivae. This domain of lppS shows variations among different strains but remains constant upon generations of individual strains on growth medium and thus allows identification of individual strains and estimation of their phylogenetic intercorrelations. The variable domain of lppS is amplified by PCR using primers that match conserved sequences of lppS flanking it. Sequence analysis of the amplified fragment enables fine subtyping of M. conjunctivae strains. The method is applicable both to isolated strains and to clinical samples directly without requiring the cultivation of the strain. Using this method, we show that M. conjunctivae was transmitted between domestic and wild animals that were grazing in proximate pastures. Certain animals also presented infections with two different strains simultaneously.