Mycoplasmas are slow-growing micro-organisms, members of the mollicute family. They lack the normal rigid peptidoglycan cell wall of bacteria, which allows them to invade all the tissues and organs of the body, including the brain, causing complex symptoms. There are hundreds of different mycoplasma subtypes and strains. Mycoplasmas are known to cause serious and often fatal illness in goats. These are caused by several different subtypes and strains. In goats, the disease tends to lead to five basic problems:
Respiratory (Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia):
M. agalactia, M. mycoides mycoides LC, M. strain F38, M. mycoides capri This disease appears to be increasing in frequency among adults and kids around the world. (Not found yet in USA) It is extremely contagious and results in a very high percentage of deaths in a herd. First signs are cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of appetite and severe weakness. It can be accompanied by a high fever, with the head lowered and/or extended and an arched back. Since the causative agents can also be found in cases of mastitis and abortion, it is possible that the disease can be transmitted from an infected dam; although it is generally presumed to be spread via aerosol droplets. Another of the symptoms that can accompany CCP is arthritis, discussed below. There are some forms of the disease which show no respiratory signs, but merely weakness and a high fever (septicemia, see below).
M. agalactiae, M. capricolum, M. mycoides This is the most common form of disease. Healthy young kids will suddenly start limping, hunch their backs, stop eating, go down crying in obvious pain and die within a few hours. Blindness has also been reported. In some instances, the mothers will be obvious cases of mycoplasma mastitis (see below), but the link is not always guaranteed. The diagnosis must be differentiated from enterotoxemias of Clostridium perfringens C and D and “navel ill.”
Mastitis (“Contagious Caprine Agalactia”):
M. agalactiae, M. capricolum, M. mycoides, M. putrefaciens The dam will show signs of mastitis (with the odor of putrification if caused by M. putrifaciens), but the kids may show any or all of the mycoplasmal symptoms of pneumonia, arthritis, conjunctivitis (with yellow discharge), septicemia, fever, weakness, etc. leading to a very high mortality rate.
Conjunctivitis (Infection of the lining of the eye):
M. agalactiae, M. conjunctivae, M. mycoides It will be practically impossible to tell this type of conjunctivitis from the many other common types, unless it occurs with some of the mycoplasmal symptoms mentioned above.
M. capricolum, M. mycoides, M strain F38 It frequently results in rapid death and will resemble the situation described under arthritis above.
Treatment: Strict culling of all cases of mycoplasma infection. Treatment must be immediate and vigorous. All showing any of the above signs should be isolated at once. All members of the herd should be started on a course of antibiotics. All antibiotic use is extralabel and must be done in accordance with AMDUCA. Contact your veterinarian. Supportive therapy. Milk should be pasteurized.