From our kennel cough information page:
“A common culprit (for kennel cough) is a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica but in the majority of cases other bacteria or viruses will be involved. Other bacterial causes may include Mycoplasma spp. or Streptococcus zoopidemicus. Viral causes may include adenovirus-2, parainfluenza, corona respiratory virus, herpes virus, and neumovirus.”
Most of us are familiar with Bordetella bronchiseptica, as Bordetella and kennel cough are often used interchangeably to describe the same disease. When our dogs get their Bordetella vaccinations we know they’re being protected for kennel cough. But, as noted above, the causes of kennel cough—more accurately canine cough as it can be contracted virtually anywhere dogs gather—are not limited to this one type of bacteria. As we recently posted, an outbreak of kennel cough in North Carolina is believed to have been caused by the Mycoplasma bacteria, a strain of kennel cough not typically vaccinated against but with similar symptoms including cough, nasal discharge, lethargy, or fever.
What is Mycoplasma?
Like Bordetella, it’s a bacteria. Bacteria can divide rapidly—in a conducive environment, a single bacterium can divide to form a colony of hundreds in a few hours. In fact, bacteria are among the fastest reproducing organisms in the world, doubling every 4 to 20 minutes. (Source). With regard to Mycoplasma, specifically, as described in “Mycoplasmas associated with canine infectious respiratory disease” :
“Mycoplasmas are bacteria that lack a cell wall, but are enclosed by a lipid bilayer membrane. They colonize the mucous membranes of the respiratory and genital tracts as well as red blood cells, and are found in many animals and humans. To date, 15 species of mycoplasma have been isolated from or detected in dogs…”
Moreover, they’re hardy. Mycoplasma species can survive for weeks to months outside a host, making the environment a source of infection. (Source). Mycoplasma (Mycoplasma spp., specifically) has an incubation period of 1-4 weeks, can be shed for up to 3 weeks, and has a persistent infection potential of up to 3 weeks in lung tissue. (Source).
In short, Mycoplasma is nothing to sneeze at but may not be part of a typical animal care vaccine protocol. As noted by a veterinarian in North Carolina dealing with the outbreak there, Mycoplasma is “something that we don’t regularly vaccinate for.”
How is kennel cough caused by Mycoplasma spread?
Like the more common Bordetella, the Mycoplasma strain of kennel cough is an airborne disease. That is, when a dog coughs or sneezes and expels droplets, those droplets contain the infectious bacteria. The larger droplets will land fairly quickly where they can be eliminated with normal surface cleaning (and be followed up with PetAirapy’s surface UV disinfection units for greater than a 99.99% kill rate of tested virus and bacterial pathogens). Smaller droplets will travel farther and remain in the air longer, possibly becoming aerosolized. Indeed, more of these smaller droplets from airborne diseases may be aerosolized than what has been generally accepted. As recently discussed in a human context by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), during a presentation for Harvard Medical Grand Rounds there has been “some misunderstanding between droplets and aerosolized particles” and that “there is much more aerosol than we thought.” For more on Dr. Fauci’s presentation and aerosolization, check out our blog “Aerosols and Viral Transmission: More Than We Thought.”
How to prevent the spread of Mycoplasma?
So, what do you do about a bacteria that causes kennel cough, spreads through the air, and can survive in the environment for weeks to months outside a host? One that dogs may not be vaccinated for? This outbreak of the Mycoplasma strain of kennel cough is an important reminder that infection control requires a multipronged strategy that includes surface and air disinfection. Sometimes the protection of vaccines isn’t available, so if you lose that prong in your strategy you still have defenses in place. For more on how PetAirapy’s UV disinfection technology can be a part of a smart infection control strategy, see our “The Science Behind UV Disinfection” page or contact us for more information.
Image by Mirko Sajkov from Pixabay