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THE haemotropic mycoplasma Mycoplasma haemolamae adheres to the surface of red blood cells of llamas and alpacas. It is variably associated with anaemia and sometimes with other clinical signs such as depression, fever and weight loss. Many infected camelids do not develop clinical or laboratory abnormalities (Tornquist and others 2002, 2009). Infected camelids that are immunosuppressed, stressed or concurrently infected with other organisms are more likely to show clinical signs and to have organisms visible on blood smears (Hutchison and others 1992, Barrington and others 1997, Lascola and others 2009). It appears that many camelids, once infected, remain chronic carriers regardless of whether they are treated with antibiotics (Tornquist and others 2002, 2009).
The development of a PCR-based assay in 2001 has facilitated the study of M haemolamae and has begun to clarify some aspects of infection and response to treatment, although the organism has still not been successfully cultivated in vitro. The PCR assay is a sensitive and specific method for identifying early infections as well as subclinical infections (Tornquist and others 2009).
The mode of transmission of M haemolamae has not been determined, although biting insect vectors are suspected or confirmed in other haemotropic mycoplasma infections (Messick 2004, Woods and others 2005, Almy and others 2006, Willi and others 2007). In utero transmission has also been suspected, on the basis of the presence of organisms in …