Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Mycoplasma dispar infections



Mycoplasma dispar infections


  • Last modified
  • 09 November 2017
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Mycoplasma dispar infections
  • Pathogens
  • Mycoplasma dispar
  • Overview
  • Mycoplasma dispar, first characterised by Gourlay and Leach (1970), is a frequent isolate from the lungs and nasal c...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Mycoplasma dispar infections

International Common Names

  • English: bovine respiratory disease (Mycoplasma dispar); endemic pneumonia in calves; mastitis


Top of page Mycoplasma dispar


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Mycoplasma dispar, first characterised by Gourlay and Leach (1970), is a frequent isolate from the lungs and nasal cavities of both healthy and pneumonic calves and is found worldwide. It has been shown to cause pneumonia following experimental infection, although the disease produced is not severe, it has occasionally been reported in cases of mastitis (Jasper, 1981). It is certainly under-reported because of its extreme fastidiousness in in vitro culture.

Host Animals

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Animal nameContextLife stageSystem
Bos indicus (zebu)Domesticated hostCattle & Buffaloes: Calf
Bos taurus (cattle)Domesticated hostCattle & Buffaloes: Calf

Hosts/Species Affected

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M. dispar has only been isolated from cattle, including both dairy and fattening calves.

Systems Affected

Top of page mammary gland diseases of large ruminants
respiratory diseases of large ruminants


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M. dispar has been isolated from most parts of the world including Europe, Australia, USA Canada, Korea and Japan.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


JapanPresentRoss, 1993

North America

CanadaPresentMartin et al., 1989; Martin et al., 1990
-AlbertaPresentMartin et al., 1990
-OntarioPresentMartin et al., 1990
-SaskatchewanPresentDonkersgoed et al., 1993
USAPresentJasper, 1981

South America

BrazilPresentMarques et al., 2007


BelgiumPresentThomas et al., 2002a
DenmarkPresentFriis and Szancer, 1994
FinlandPresentHärtel et al., 2004
FrancePresentPoumarat et al., 1992
NetherlandsPresentLaak and Noordergraaf, 1987
UKPresentGourlay and Leach, 1970; Rebhun et al., 1995


AustraliaPresentSt George et al., 1973


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M. dispar causes purple to red consolidation mainly in the cranioventral areas of the lung (Ross, 1993). In gnotobiotic calves M. dispar causes a mild subclinical bronchiolitis with lymphoid cuffing. Gourlay et al. (1979), and Friis (1980) report M. dispar causing alveolitis in which neutrophils, macrophages and oedema fluid accumulate in the alveolar walls and spaces. Field cases of subclinical pneumonia from which M. dispar has been isolated have similar lesions (St George et al., 1973). Megid et al. (2001) demonstrated that M. dispar oxidized glycerol which leads to the production of hydrogen peroxide which is a potential virulence factor. M. dispar also oxidised propanol, but the significance of that is unclear (Abu-Amero et al., 2000).


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Laboratory Diagnosis

Clinical signs are not characteristic for M. dispar infection, so laboratory diagnosis is necessary. Isolation of M. dispar from a dead calf is best achieved by aseptically taking tissue from the interface between affected and non-affected lung and isolating the mycoplasma. Thomas et al. (2002b) recommended taking bronchoalveolar lavages (BAL) rather than nasal swabs to detect mycoplasma infection in cattle and demonstrated complete agreement between BAL and lung culture samples. Serial dilutions of the lung homogenate should be made to at least 10-3 in a medium containing thallium acetate and appropriate antibiotics. Aliquots of the homogenate should be inoculated in broth and solid medium. Samples should be taken from the living animal from nasal secretions or ideally from lower respiratory secretions by bronchial-alveolar lavage. A number of medium formulations have been reported which support the growth of this mycoplasma (Gourlay and Leach, 1970; Friis, 1980). A commercial growth medium is also available from Mycoplasma Experience (Reigate, UK).

Identification of M. dispar is best achieved by growth inhibition or immunofluorescence using hyperimmune serum prepared in rabbits. However, 'centred' colonies appear to be necessary for these procedures so where difficulties are experienced in this respect, metabolic inhibition may be more suitable (Poveda and Nicholas, 1998). Laak and Noordergraaf (1987), described an immunoperoxidase test which could be carried out conveniently on fresh isolates on nitrocellulose membranes.

Formalin-fixed tissue can also be examined by immunocytochemistry or immunofluorescence using hyperimmune antiserum or preferably monoclonal antibodies.

A PCR method using the 16S rDNA gene followed by the use of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis has been able to detect and identify the majority of Mycoplasma species (McAuliffe et al., 2005). This method can detect less than 1 CFU/ml. Other PCR methods include an allele specific PCR (Miles et al., 2004) and a PCR based on the 16S rRNA gene (Marques et al., 2007).

Serological tests are not widely available for M. dispar, although single radial haemolysis, enzyme immunoassays (Howard, 1983) and passive haemagglutination (Martin et al., 1989, 1990) have been reported. Antibodies to M. dispar are not very prevalent in cattle, possibly because the mycoplasma is restricted to the lung surface (Howard, 1983).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf Sign
General Signs / Weight loss Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf Sign
Reproductive Signs / Mastitis, abnormal milk Cattle & Buffaloes:Cow Sign
Respiratory Signs / Coughing, coughs Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dull areas on percussion of chest, thorax Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf Sign
Respiratory Signs / Increased respiratory rate, polypnea, tachypnea, hyperpnea Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf Sign
Respiratory Signs / Purulent nasal discharge Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf Sign

Disease Course

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M. dispar colonizes the epithelial lining of the respiratory tract where it may be ciliostatic and cytopathic to cells of the distal bronchi and bronchioles leading to severely reduced tracheobronchial clearance of bacteria (Almeida and Rosenbusch, 1991). Immunosuppressive effects have been shown on the response of bovine lymphocytes to mitogens and mixed leucocytes in vivo.


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M. dispar may be found widely in the healthy bovine respiratory tract, even in the lower tract without causing disease. In studies by ter Laak et al. (1992a, 1992b) in the Netherlands, M. dispar was isolated from 92% of pneumonic lungs from 148 calves, and from only 40% of healthy lungs from 270 calves. In Denmark, Tegtmeier et al. (1999) isolated M. dispar from 13 of 31 lungs showing fibrino-necrotising bronchopneumonia, 15 of 31 lungs with supperative bronchopneumonia and from 3 of 31 lungs with embolic pneumonia; in all cases other bacteria including Histophilus somni, Pasteurella multicoda and Mannheimia (P.) haemolytica, and Arcanobacterium (Actinomyces) pyogenes were also present. In Canada, M. dispar was isolated from just under half of ca 300 pneumonic calf lungs (Donkersgoed et al., 1993). Results from a study of the development of respiratory disease in dairy calves indicated a possible initiative role for M. dispar leading to invasion of P. multocida (Virtala et al., 1996). In Belgium M. dispar was detected in 45.5% of 238 calves suffering recurrent respiratory disease, often in association with Mycoplasma bovis (Thomas et al., 2002a).

Impact: Economic

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It is not possible to determine the significance of M. dispar infections, as it is rarely the sole cause of disease. Viruses, bacteria and other Mycoplasma are major contributors to calf pneumonia, which has been estimated to cost the UK up to £50m per year (Rebhun et al., 1995) in terms of set back costs, calf mortality and treatment; in Europe this figure may exceed 560m ECU (Reeve-Johnson, 1999).

Disease Treatment

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Calf pneumonias are usually treated with antibiotics, not all of which are effective for those pneumonias caused or exacerbated by mycoplasmas. Studies carried out on the in vitro susceptibility of M. dispar to antibiotics have shown that oxytetracyclines (often used for mycoplasma infections) are ineffective (Reeve-Johnson, 1999). Tilmicosin, tylosin and enrofloxacin on the other hand, were effective. Friis and Szancer (1994) also showed the potency of enrofloxacin for M. dispar.

An experimental vaccine, incorporating respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza type 3 virus, M. bovis and M. dispar was developed and showed some levels of protective immunity. This vaccine was never available widely.

Prevention and Control

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As there are no widely available serological tests for M. dispar, it is not easy to prevent the introduction of M. dispar with affected calves. Cultural detection of M. dispar is not practical or effective. Control of calf pneumonia (including those caused by mycoplasmas) should include measures to reduce environmental stress and to ensure adequate housing with good circulation of air. Wherever possible consideration should be given to 'all in, all out' practices to prevent older animals infecting younger ones. If this is not possible, separation of calves from the adults is advisable at the earliest possible opportunity. Little is known of the persistence of M. dispar in the environment.


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Abu-Amero KK; Abu-Groun EA; Halablab MA; Miles RJ, 2000. Kinetics and distribution of alcohol oxidising activity in Acholeplasma and Mycoplasma species. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 183(1):147-151.

Almeida RA; Rosenbusch RF, 1991. Capsulelike surface material of Mycoplasma dispar induced by in vitro growth in culture with bovine cells is antigenically related to similar structures in vivo.. Infection and Immunity, 59(9):3119-3125; 30 ref.

Donkersgoed J van; Ribble CS; Boyer LG; Townsend HGG, 1993. Epidemiological study of enzootic pneumonia in dairy calves in Saskatchewan. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research, 57(4):247-254; 32 ref.

Friis NF, 1980. Mycoplasma dispar as a causative agent in pneumonia in calves. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 21:34-42.

Friis NF; Szancer J, 1994. Sensitivity of certain porcine and bovine mycoplasmas to antimicrobial agents in a liquid medium test compared to a disc assay. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 35(4):389-394; 15 ref.

Gourlay RN; Howard CJ; Thomas LH; Wyld SG, 1979. Pathogenicity of some mycoplasmas and acholeplasma species in the lungs of gnotobiotic calves. Research in Veterinary Science, 27:233-237.

Gourlay RN; Leach RH, 1970. Anew mycoplasma species isolated frompneumonic lungs of calves (Mycoplasma dispar sp. nov. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 3:111-123.

Hartel H; Nikunen S; Neuvonen E; Tanskanen R; Kivela SL; Aho R; Soveri T; Saloniemi H, 2004. Viral and bacterial pathogens in bovine respiratory disease in Finland. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 45(3-4):193-200.

Herrmann R, 1992. Genome structure and organization. In: Maniloff J ed. Mycoplasmas: molecular biology and pathogenesis. Washington DC, USA: American Society of Microbiology, 157-168.

Howard CJ, 1983. Mycoplasmas and bovine respiratory disease: studies related to pathogenicity and the immune response-a review. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 56(5/6):789-797; 55 ref.

Howard CJ; Gourlay RN; Collins J, 1980. Immunity to mycoplasma infections of the calf respiratory tract. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 137:711-726.

Jasper DE, 1981. Bovine mycoplasma mastitis. Advances in Veterinary Science, 25:121-159.

Laak EA ter; Noordergraaf JH, 1987. An improved method for the identification of Mycoplasma dispar. Veterinary Microbiology, 14:25-31.

Laak EA ter; Noordergraaf JH; Boomsluiter E, 1992b. The nasal mycoplasmal flora of healthy calves and cows. Journal of Veterinary Medicine. Series B., 39(8):610-616.

Laak EAter; Noordergraaf JH; Dieltjes RPJW, 1992. Prevalence of mycoplasmas in the respiratory tracts of pneumonic calves. Journal of Veterinary Medicine. Series B, 39(8):553-562; 30 ref.

Marques LM; Buzinhani M; Yamaguti M; Oliveira RC; Ferreira JB; Mettifogo E; Timenetsky J, 2007. Use of a polymerase chain reaction for detection of Mycoplasma dispar in the nasal mucus of calves. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 19(1):103-106.

Martin SW; Bateman KG; Shewen PE; Rosendal S; Bohac JE, 1989. The frequency, distribution and effects of antibodies, to seven putative respiratory pathogens, on respiratory disease and weight gain in feedlot calves on Ontario. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research, 53(3):355-362; 20 ref.

Martin SW; Bateman KG; Shewen PE; Rosendal S; Bohac JG; Thorburn M, 1990. A group level analysis of the associations between antibodies to seven putative pathogens and respiratory disease and weight gain in Ontario feedlot calves. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research, 54(3):337-342; 16 ref.

McAuliffe L; Ellis RJ; Lawes JR; Ayling RD; Nicholas RAJ, 2005. 16S rDNA PCR and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis; a single generic test for detecting and differentiating Mycoplasma species. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 54(8):731-739.

Megid R; Nicholas RAJ; Miles RJ, 2001. Biochemical characterization of Mycoplasma bovirhinis, Mycoplasma dispar and recent bovine isolates of Mycoplasma canis. Veterinary Research Communications, 25(1):1-12.

Miles K; McAuliffe L; Ayling RD; Nicholas RAJ, 2004. Rapid detection of Mycoplasma dispar and M. bovirhinis using allele specific polymerase chain reaction protocols. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 241(1):103-107.

Pettersson B; Uhlén M; Johansson KE, 1996. Phylogeny of some mycoplasmas from ruminants based on 16S rRNA sequences and definition of a new cluster within the hominis Group. International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology, 46(4):1093-1098; 24 ref.

Poumarat F; Longchambon D; Martel JL, 1992. Application of dot immunobinding on membrane filtration (MF dot) to the study of relationships within "M. mycoides cluster" and within "glucose and arginine-negative cluster" of ruminant mycoplasmas. Veterinary Microbiology, 32(3-4):375-390; 31 ref.

Poveda JB; Nicholas RAJ, 1998. Serological identification by growth and metabolism inhibition tests. In: Miles RJ, Nicholas RAJ, eds. Mycoplasma Protocols. Totowa, USA: Humana Press, 105-112.

Rebhun WC; Guard C; Richards CM (eds), 1995. Diseases of dairy cattle. Chapter 4: Respiratory diseases. Baltimore, USA: Williams and Wilkins, 65-105.

Reeve-Johnson L, 1999. The impact of mycoplasma infections in respiratory disease in cattle in Europe. In: Stipkovits L, Rosengarten R, Frey J, eds. Mycoplasmas of ruminants:pathogenicity, diagnostics, epidemiology and molecular genetics Vol 3. Brussels: European Commission, 18-31.

Ross RF, 1993. Mycoplasmas - Animal pathogens. In: Kahane I, Adoni A, eds. Rapid Diagnosis of Mycoplasmas. New York, USA: Plenum Press, 69-110.

St George TD; Horsfall N; Sullivan ND, 1973. A subclinical pneumonia of calves associated with Mycoplasma dispar. Australian Veterinary Journal, 49:580-589.

Tegtmeier C; Uttenthal A; Friis NF; Jensen NE; Jensen HE, 1999. Pathological and microbiological studies on pneumonic lungs from Danish calves. Journal of Veterinary Medicine. Series B, 46(10):693-700; 32 ref.

Thomas A; Ball H; Dizier I; Trolin A; Bell C; Mainil J; Linden A, 2002. Isolation of Mycoplasma species from the lower respiratory tract of healthy cattle and cattle with respiratory disease in Belgium. Veterinary Record, 151(16):472-476.

Thomas A; Dizier I; Trolin A; Mainil J; Linden A, 2002. Comparison of sampling procedures for isolating pulmonary mycoplasmas in cattle. Veterinary Research Communications, 26(5):333-339.

Virtala AMK; Mechor GD; Gröhn YT; Erb HN; Dubovi EJ, 1996. Epidemiologic and pathologic characteristics of respiratory tract disease in dairy heifers during the first three months of life. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 208(12):2035-2042; 51 ref.

Distribution Maps

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