Mycoplasmas in general are very efficient parasites and because of this they have adapted to many different kinds of organisms and also many different kinds of tissues within those organisms. Mycoplasma bovis is able to infect so many areas of a cow due to a wide range of characteristics.

 Picture of bacterial cell wall (courtesy of wikipedia commons)
Picture a common cell layout of a bacterium

The Lack of a Cell Wall Enables:

-Because Mycoplasmas only contain three layers of plasma membrane it allows them to do a wide range of things with their specific structural shape (Taylor 2001). This allows Mycoplasma bovis to easily alter its shape to optimize its efficiency within the host. Some shapes that Mycoplasma bovis can be found in include: pear shape, filamentous, or a "fried egg" appearance (Cree 2002).

-Many antibiotics that are currently used today are ineffective due to a majority of these drugs specifically targeting the cell wall of bacteria (Cree 2002). Although some antibiotics, such as tetracyclin, have shown to be effective since tetracycline targets the production of proteins within the cell (Taylor 2001).

Other effective adaptations of Mycoplasma bovis

-Mycoplasma bovis is also able to change the proteins on the surface of the cell. As a result of this, the cows immune system is unable to effectively mount an attack against the bacteria because it is unable to create antibodies that target all of the surface protein variations Mycoplasma bovis is able to produce (Cree 2002).

Infected calf with drooping ear ( Courtesy of Virginia Cooperative Extension)

- Because Mycoplasmas are very small, only 0.2 to 0.8 micrometers in size, their size allows for easy distribution into various organs and areas of the animal. This is shown with Mycoplasma bovis in cattle where a young calf contracts a strain of Mycoplasma bovis that infects its lungs, causing pneumonia and 2 to 4 weeks later it will develop symptoms of severe arthritis in one or several joints (Brishard 2003).

 Large Dairy Production (Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)The Stealthy Parasite

-Mycoplasma bovis is a very efficient parasite. This is due to the fact that it can inhabit a host without ever exhibiting signs of illness. This enables the host to easily transport Mycoplasma bovis (Currin & Whittier). During this time the bacteria can be spread to other animals through air transmittance and also on substrate. With many big dairies, that have large amounts of cattle confined in a small space; this can lead to massive outbreaks of Mycoplasma Bovis infections (Cree 2002).

Cow-Microsoft Clip Art
Created By: Garrett Blumer
University of Wisconsin- La Crosse
Page Last Updated: April 25, 2008