Hemoplasmas are Gram-negative bacteria belonging to the class Mollicutes. They are obligatory red blood cell pathogens that lack a cell wall and attach to the surface of red blood cells. These bacteria may cause acute anemia that is life-threatening or chronic disease. The disease may have no signs. Natural transmission is believed to occur through blood-sucking arthropod vectors such as ticks, fleas, lice, mosquitoes and flies, via infected blood, as through blood transfusion, and aggressive interactions. 1
Hemoplasma species commonly cause infectious anemia in wild and domestic cats worldwide. The feline hemoplasma group consists of at least three species, Mycoplasma haemofelis (the most pathogenic feline hemoplasma species), Mycoplasma haemominutum and Mycoplasma turicensis. The clinical picture can range from asymptomatic infection to acute hemolytic anemia and can induce loss of appetitie, lethargy, dehydration, weight loss and sudden death. Young and male animals seem to be more susceptible to canine hemoplasma infections. Other risk factors could include cross-breeding and mange infection, older age, dog bite wounds, neoplastic diseases, and rural settings.2
Hemoplasmas are potentially zoonotic mycoplasmal pathogens. While antibiotics often help alleviate clinical signs, they are not always successful in clearing the infection. This can result in cats developing into chronic carriers. Recently a number of papers have documented the presence of hemoplasma infections in humans. Those in close contact with domesticated animals, such as veterinarians and farmers, and those in poor sanitary conditions are reported to be at an increased risk of hemoplasma infection.3
- Protective Immunity against Infection with Mycoplasma haemofelis. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2015 Jan; 22(1): 108–118.
- Occurrence and identification of hemotropic mycoplasmas (Hemoplasmas) in free ranging and laboratory rats (Rattus norvegicus) from two Brazilian zoos. BMC Vet Res. 2015; 11: 286.
- Prevalence and molecular characterization of canine and feline hemotropic mycoplasmas (hemoplasmas) in northern Italy.