Haemobartonellosis in cats

  • The Organism

Mycoplasma haemofelis, M. haemocanis belongs to the family Mycoplasmatacea, obligate bacterial parasites of erythrocytes of cats. They firmly adherent to the surface of RBCs

Haemobartonellosis has a world-wide distribution in cats.

  • Infection

The natural infection probably occurs mainly via insects, like fleas. Vertical transmission via transplacental infection or suckling is also considered. An other problem are iatrogenic infections via blood transfusion or injections.

The incubation period ranges from 6 to 17 days. Clinical signs in the acute phase are anaemia, pyrexia, jaundice and sudden weakness. Splenomegaly and hepatomegaly can be diagnosed. Phagocytosis destroys infected erythrocytes in the spleen.

Due to antibody-mediated haemolysis cats can become Coombs positive.

First the PCV decreases rapidly, but most cats become chronic carriers and the PCV is around the lower level of the reference range. An anaemia caused by Haemobartonella felis is regenerative.

  •  Diagnosis


It is not possible to culture the agent.

  •  Direct detection

Detection of Mycoplasma haemofelis / M. haemocanis  by microscopic examination is often unreliable (only 30% of PCR positive cases are detected in blood smears). False positive results can be caused by protein precipitates, background debris or Howell-Jolly-bodies.

  •  PCR

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is specific and sensitive.

Own studies confirm reports in the literature of around 21% Haemobartonella felis positive results in anaemic and non-anaemic cats.

It is very important to make a definitive diagnosis!

  •   Material

EDTA-blood (1 ml)

  •  Therapy

Antibiotic treatment with tetracycline or doxycycline in combination with steroids are successful and the prognosis is good.


Authors: JA Braddock, S Tasker, R Malik
Title: The use of real-time PCR in the diagnosis and monitoring of Mycoplasma haemofelis copy number in a naturally infected cat
Full source:Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2004, Vol 6, Iss 3, pp 161-165
Doc-type: Article
Address: Tasker S,Univ Sydney,Fac Vet Sci,Sydney,NSW 2006,AUSTRALIA
ISBN/ISSN: 1098-612X
Publisher: W B Saunders Co Ltd,32 Jamestown Rd,London NW1 7by, England
Abstract:A 5-year-old mate neutered cat was diagnosed with severe anaemia due to acute Mycoplasma haemofelis infection. Inflammatory respiratory disease was present concurrently. The cat was treated successfully using a fresh transfusion of whole blood and a 6 week course of doxycycline. The patient made a rapid recovery although the allergic airway disease subsequently required specific therapy consisting of inhaled fluticasone and salbutamol. Real-time quantitative PCR assays confirmed the presence of A haemofelis DNA copies in the blood at presentation. Repeat PCR assays showed a reduction in copy number during treatment and negative PCR results were obtained both 91 and 425 days after presentation. The report describes, for the first time, the use of real-time PCR in the diagnosis and monitoring of natural M. Haemofelis copy number, as well as the induction of long-term negative PCR status. (C) 2004 ESFM and AAFP. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Authors: KE Kewish, GD Appleyard, SL Myers, BA Kidney, ML Jackson
Title: Mycoplasma haemofelis and Mycoplasma haemominutum detection by polymerase chain reaction in cats from Saskatchewan and Alberta
Full source: Canadian Veterinary Journal - Revue Veterinaire Canadienne, 2004, Vol 45, Iss 9, pp 749-752
Doc-type: Article
Address: Jackson ML,Univ Saskatchewan,Western Coll Vet Med,Dept Vet Pathol,52 Campus Dr,Saskatoon,SK S7N 5B4,CANADA
ISBN/ISSN: 0008-5286
Publisher:  Canadian Vet Med Assoc,339 Booth St Attn: Kimberly Allen-Mcgill,Ottawa,Ontario K1R 7K1, Canada
Abstract: Hemobartonellosis is caused by Mycoplasma haemofelis, previously known as Haemobartonella felis. Cats infected with this organism typically develop regenerative anemia. The related species Mycoplasma haemominutum may also cause anemia. The purposes of this study were to use polymerase chain reaction technology to determine if both organisms exist in naturally infected cats from Saskatchewan and Alberta, and to determine if disease manifestation corresponds to mycoplasma species. Thirteen of 18 cats with regenerative anemia were infected, 12 with M. Haemofelis and I with M. Haemominutum. Eight of 22 cats with nonregenerative anemia were infected, 4 with M. Haemofelis and 4 with M. Haemominutun. Two of 20 cats with normal complete blood (cell) counts were infected with M. Haemominutum. Although both mycoplasma species were identified, ill cats were more often infected with M. Haemofelis.

Authors: H Inokuma, S Taroura, M Okuda, M Hisasue, K Itamoto, S Une, M Nakaichi, Y Taura
Title: Molecular survey of Mycoplasma haemofelis and 'Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum' infection in cats in Yamaguchi and surrounding areas
Full source: Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 2004, Vol 66, Iss 8, pp 1017-1020
(Selectively Covered)
Doc-type: Article
Language: English
Address: Inokuma H,Yamaguchi Univ,Fac Agr,Yamaguchi 7538515,JAPAN
ISBN/ISSN: 0916-7250
Publisher: Japan Soc Vet Sci,Univ Tokyo  1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-Ku,Tokyo,103, Japan
Abstract: A molecular survey of hemoplasma (Mycoplasma haemofelis and 'Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum') in Yamaguchi Prefecture and surrounding areas was performed by using molecular methods. PCR-RFLP with HindIII revealed that 2 cats were infected with M. Haemofelis, and 16 with 'C. Mycoplasma haemominutum' among 102 randomly selected cats. Partial 16S rRNA gene sequences of M. Haemofelis and 'C. Mycoplasma haemominutum' determined in this study showed percent similarities of 98.3-99.8% and 96.4-100%, respectively, with those from other countries. Hemoplasma infections were more frequently detected in free-roaming cats than inside cats. Also, the status of FeLV infection was another significant risk factor for hemoplasma infection.

Authors:S Tasker, CR Helps, MJ Day, DA Harbour, TJ GruffyddJones, MR Lappin
Title: Use of a Taqman PCR to determine the response of Mycoplasma haemofelis infection to antibiotic treatment
Full source:Journal of Microbiological Methods, 2004, Vol 56, Iss 1, pp 63-71
Doc-type: Article
Address:Tasker S,Univ Bristol,Dept Vet Clin Sci,Langford House,Bristol BS40 5DU, Avon, ENGLAND
Language: English
ISBN/ISSN: 0167-7012
Publisher: Elsevier Science Bv,PO Box 211,1000 AE Amsterdam,Netherlands
Abstract: A quantitative Taqman polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay was used to evaluate the response of Mycoplasma haemofelis experimentally infected cats to three antibiotic treatment regimes. Sixteen cats were intravenously inoculated with M haemofelis from a chronically infected donor. The cats were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups each containing four cats: oral doxycycline at 10 mg/kg/day for 14 days, oral enrofloxacin at 5 mg/kg/day for 14 days, oral enrofloxacin at 10 mg/kg/day for 14 days, and an untreated control group. DNA, extracted from blood samples collected on days 0, 7, 14, 21, 25, 28, 32, 35, 42 and 54 post-inoculation (PI), was subjected to quantitative Taqman PCR. The M. Haemofelis copy number was significantly lower in the doxycycline group (P = 0.008), the 5 mg/kg/day enrofloxacin group (P = 0.006) and the 10 mg/kg/day enrofloxacin group (P = 0.005) compared to the untreated control group. No significant differences were found between any of the three antibiotic treated treatment groups. All three antibiotic treatment regimes evaluated in this study were effective at reducing M haemofelis copy number. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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