Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Mastitis: mycoplasma

Contributor(s): Andrew Henderson, Alexander Corbishley

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  • Mycoplasma is classified as a contagious pathogen.
  • Mycoplasmal mastitis can be difficult both to diagnose and to treat.



  • Family:‎ mycoplasmataceae.
  • Class‎: mollicutes.
  • Genus: Mycoplasma.
  • 9 genera of which 5 have specific veterinary interest.
  • 100 species.
  • Majority of pathogens relevant to animals exist here.
  • M. bovis and M. californicum would appear to be the most prevalent species implicated in order of importance. However, M. bovigenitalium and M. alkalescens have also been commonly identified though not to the same extent.
  • Other mastitis causing species include M. bovirhinis, M. canadense, M. leachii, M. arginini, M. dispar, bovine group 7 and F-38.


  • Mycoplasma is classified as a contagious pathogen therefore reservoirs of infection will predominantly exist within the udder of infected animals.
  • Milking is the most likely period of transmission.
  • The milking parlour, operator/s and milking accessories act as avenues for fomite transmission of the infection to uninfected cows, ie liners, wash cloths, towels, re-used/dirty gloves, hands and dump buckets.
  • As a result of its systemic dissemination spread may occur not only from indirect/direct udder contact during milking but also via shedding from other mucosal surfaces such as the eyes, nose, vagina and rectum or via hematogenous spread to the udder.
  • The ability of Mycoplasma to survive in the environment has been highlighted for up to 236 days in manure in the dark at 23-28°C/73.4-82.4°F.
  • Recycled sand used as bedding has been proposed as a possible source of infection, though evidence to support this as a route of infection transfer is lacking.
  • Subclinical asymptomatic carriers of Mycoplasma can be frequent with shedding occurring from mucosal surfaces.


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Further Reading


Refereed Papers 

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Arcangioli M et al (2011) Prevalence of Mycoplasma bovis udder infection in dairy cattle: Preliminary field investigation in southeast France. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 59 (2), 75–78 PubMed.
  • Biddle M F, Fox L K & Hancock D D (2003) Patterns of mycoplasma shedding in the milk of dairy cows with intramammary mycoplasma infection. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 223 (8), 1163–1166 PubMed.
  • Boonyayatra S et al (2010) Effects of storage methods on the recovery of Mycoplasma species from milk samples. Veterinary Microbiology 144 (1-2), 210–213 PubMed.
  • Filioussis G et al (2007) Isolation of Mycoplasma bovis from bovine clinical mastitis cases in Northern Greece. The Veterinary Journal 173 (1), 215–218 PubMed.
  • Fox, L.K., 2012. Mycoplasma Mastitis. Causes, Transmission, and Control. Veterinary Clinics of North America - Food Animal Practice.
  • González R N & Wilson D J (2003) Mycoplasmal mastitis in dairy herds. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Food animal practice 19 (1), 199–221 PubMed.
  • Houlihan M G et al (2007) Mastitis and arthritis in two dairy herds caused by Mycoplasma bovis. The Veterinary record 160 (4), 126–7 PubMed.
  • Jasper, D., 1980. Prevalence of mycoplasmal mastitis in the western states. California Veterinarian, 34(4), pp.24–26. Available at: [Accessed March 7, 2017].
  • Justice-Allen, Trujillo J, Corbett R, Harding R, Goodell G & Wilson D (2010) Survival and replication of Mycoplasma species in recycled bedding sand and association with mastitis on dairy farms in Utah. Journal of dairy science 93 (1), 192–202 PubMed.
  • Kirk J H, Glenn K & Ruiz L (1997) Epidemiological analysis of Mycoplasma spp isolated from bulk tank milk samples obtained from dairy herds that were members of milk cooperative. J Am Vet Med Assoc 211, 1036 – 1038 PubMed.
  • Nicholas R A J & Ayling R D (2003) Mycoplasma bovis: disease, diagnosis, and control. Research in Veterinary Science 74 (2), 105–112 PubMed.
  • Nicholas R, Ayling R & McAuliffe L (2007) Mycoplasma mastitis. Veterinary Record 160 (11), 382–382.
  • Passchyn P et al (2012) Between-herd prevalence of Mycoplasma bovis in bulk milk in Flanders, Belgium. Research in Veterinary Science 92 (2), 219–220 PubMed.
  • Punyapornwithaya V et al (2010) Association between an outbreak strain causing mycoplasma bovis mastitis and its asymptomatic carriage in the herd: A case study from Idaho, USA. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 93 (1), 66–70 PubMed.
  • Punyapornwithaya V et al (2011) Incidence and transmission of Mycoplasma bovis mastitis in Holstein dairy cows in a hospital pen: A case study. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 98 (1), 74–78 PubMed.
  • Punyapornwithaya V, Fox L K et al (2012) Time to clearance of mycoplasma mastitis: The effect of management factors including milking time hygiene and preferential culling. Canadian Veterinary Journal 35 (10), 1119–1122 PubMed.
  • Punyapornwithaya V, Fox L K et al (2012) Brief Communication Communication brève Time to clearance of mycoplasma mastitis: The effect of management factors including milking time hygiene and preferential culling. CVJ, 53 PubMed.
  • Radaelli E et al (2011) Outbreak of bovine clinical mastitis caused by Mycoplasma bovis in a North Italian herd. Research in Veterinary Science 91 (2), 251–253 PubMed.
  • Thomas A et al (2003) Antibiotic susceptibilities of recent isolates of Mycoplasma bovis in Belgium. The Veterinary record 153 (14), 428–31 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  •  APHA (2014) VIDA TABLE 8 : PIGS 2013, 2-5.
  • Bradley A J, Barkema H, Biggs A, Green M & Lam T (2012) Control of Mastitis and Enhancement of Milk Quality. In: Dairy Herd Health. CAB. pp 117–168.
  • Divers T & Peek S (eds) (2008) Rebhun’s Diseases of Dairy Cattle. Elsevier Inc.
  • Quinn P et al (2011) Veterinary Microbiology and Microbial Disease. 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • USDA-APHIS (2008) Prevalence of Contagious Mastitis Pathogens on U.S. Dairy Operations, 2007. APHIS Veterinary Services Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health, (October).
  • USDA APHIS (2003) Mycoplasma in Bulk Tank Milk on U.S. Dairies. USDA APHIS Veterinary Services Info Sheet, (May). Available at:
  • Zadoks R (2014) Mycoplasma mastitis - is it a problem in the UK? In: British Mastitis Conference.