Control by medication
The primary goal of medication is to reduceclinical signs, lesions, egg production dropsand transmission of MG from infected birds(1). Antibiotic medication cannot be reliedupon to eliminate MG from an infected ﬂock.In addition, considering the risk of antibioticresistance development with continued use,as well as the widespread pressure to reducethe use of antibiotics in food-producinganimals, antibiotic medication should not beseen as a long-term solution to MG control.Since Mycoplasmas lack a cell wall, they areresistant to antibiotics which inhibit cell wallsynthesis, such as penicillin (4). They are,however, generally sensitive to macrolides,tetracyclines, ﬂuoroquinolones and someother antibiotics. In the United States, ﬂuoro-quinolones and tilmicosin are not approvedfor use in poultry, and macrolides and tetra-cyclines are most commonly used to controlMG infections (1).
Control by vaccination
MG vaccines are used to provide protectionagainst respiratory disease, egg productiondrops and egg transmission, and, in somecases, to displace virulent field strains withattenuated vaccine strains (5). Live vaccines,as well as inactivated oil-emulsion bacterinsand a fowlpox-MG recombinant vaccine areavailable for MG control.
Bacterins have been shown
tobe effective at protecting against eggproduction losses and egg transmission,and, in some cases, at reducing respiratorydisease and airsacculitis associated with MGinfection, although results have not beenconsistent (1, 5). Bacterins are generally lesseffective than live vaccines at preventingcolonization of the respiratory tract by fieldstrains. The advantage of bacterins is thatthey allow immunization without the risk of introducing live MG organisms (1, 5). In somecountries, MG bacterins are used togetherwith live vaccines in attempts to improve MGcontrol, although this practice is not commonin the United States.
Three live MG vaccines are cur-rently licensed for use in the United States,and are widely used internationally: F strain(Poulvac® Myco F, Pfizer and AviPro® MG F,Lohmann Animal Health); 6/85 (Mycovac-L®,Merck Animal Health); and TS-11 (MG TS-11,Merial (USA) and Vaxsafe®MG, Bioproperties,Ltd.). These vaccines differ in terms of theirimmunogenicity and virulence; character-istics which appear to be inversely relatedfor MG (5-7). Although there are antigenicdifferences between different MG strains,there is no evidence that these differencesinﬂuence the protection afforded by the cur-rently available vaccines (5).F strain-derived vaccines have been usedextensively, and have demonstrated efficacyin the prevention of respiratory signs, airsac-culitis, egg production drops and egg trans-mission of MG (1, 5). F strain persists in theupper respiratory tract for the life of the ﬂock,and is capable of displacing virulent field MGstrains from infected ﬂocks (4). While F strainvaccines are relatively mild in chickens, theyare pathogenic in turkeys (4). F strain canbe transmitted through the egg, and lateraltransmission has also been reported (1, 4, 8).In the United States, there has recently beena trend towards increased usage of F strainvaccines on multiple-age laying sites experi-encing significant MG challenge. TS-11 and 6/85 represent milder vaccinationapproaches to MG control. Both vaccineshave demonstrated efficacy at the preven-tion of MG-associated respiratory diseaseand egg production drops (5). They elicit littleto no post-vaccination reactions, are poorlytransmissible, and do not negatively affectegg production (1, 7). After vaccination, TS-11persists for life in the upper respiratory tract,while the persistence of 6/85 is limited (4).In comparison with TS-11 and 6/85, F strainprovided greater protection against airsaclesions and respiratory colonization by thechallenge strain (7). In another trial, F strain,but not TS-11 or 6/85, displaced a virulentMG field strain from infected birds (9). TS-11,however, was reported to displace F strain ina program which resulted in the eradicationof MG from an affected farm (10).
A recombinant MGvaccine, comprised of a fowlpox virus vectorexpressing MG antigens (Vectormune® FP-MG, Ceva Biomune) has been recently intro-duced. Like bacterins, recombinant fowlpox-MG (rFP-MG) vaccines do not introduce liveMG organisms into vaccinated ﬂocks, andare thus considered a safe alternative to livevaccines. The rFP-MG vaccine does not elicit aserological response, allowing differentiationof vaccinated and infected ﬂocks. There arecurrently no published reports demonstrat-ing the ability of this vaccine to protectagainst virulent MG challenge.
Current studies with commercial F strainvaccines
Recently, the efficacy of a commercial Fstrain vaccine was compared with that of abacterin and a rFP-MG vaccine in laying hensin the face of virulent MG R strain challenge(11). In addition to scoring air sac lesions andtracheal mucosal thickness, ovaries wereexamined for evidence of regression, andscored as “normal” (Fig. 1), “regressed” (Fig.2) or “immature”. Both the F strain and thebacterin effectively protected the respiratoryand reproductive tracts against challenge,when compared with the non-vaccinatedcontrols and the rFP-MG vaccinated group.
Figure 1. Normal ovarian follicles of a matureegg-laying henFigure 2. Ovarian regression