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Be Aware of Mycoplasma

A message from Tyson Foods Managing Director Veterinary Services, Scott J. Gustin, DVM, MAM

The purpose of this letter is to raise awareness of Mycoplasma and how it may be brought to your farm.  In the past couple of months, an increase in Mycoplasma Gallisepticum (MG) and Mycoplasma Synoviae (MS) infections have been detected in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and several other states.  These infections may lead to mild signs and medication costs all the way to complete flock depopulation; but no matter the type, we can all agree that none of them are good for us.  MG and MS can also be transmitted vertically, meaning they can shed the organism to their broiler progeny.

Fortunately, biosecurity works 100% of the time to prevent infection with Mycoplasmas.  MG and MS are fragile organisms with short lifespans outside the host (i.e. hours.)  Mycoplasmas originate from relatively few sources and are species specific (chickens can’t get them from cows).  The greatest source for Mycoplasma in the US is backyard chickens, and in some cases, other commercial poultry.  If you can ensure that all people who enter your chicken airspaces change footwear before entering and avoid contact with outside chickens, you can be highly confident Mycoplasma will not be introduced into your chicken houses.  

It used to be very common adage that whenever a farm tested positive for Mycoplasma, backyard chickens would be found in the vicinity of the farm.  But, after examining case investigations over the last four years at Tyson, we have found this is true only about half the time.  It really comes down to the people working at the farm, farm workers’ outside bird contact exposures, and their knowledge of biosecurity.  If all people on your farm are aware of the potential disease risks of backyard and other non-Tyson poultry and practice good biosecurity, incidences of Mycoplasma will be rare.  It is a good practice to periodically verify that people who work on your farms do not live near or have exposure to backyard poultry.  In many cases, caretakers do not know of a risk around the corner or around the bend in a road from where they live.  If there is a question of a potential risk, let’s discuss the matter and figure out a path forward rather than ignore it.  

We appreciate your attention to these important issues that affect our livelihoods.