How to Prevent Mycoplasma

Cobb’s comprehensive, proactive biosecurity standards are designed to keep birds safe and healthy and to protect them from common diseases such as mycoplasma. In fact, Cobb helps customers prevent mycoplasma from occurring in their own breeder and broiler flocks by providing biosecurity Best Management Practices.  

Mycoplasma is a single-cell class of bacteria that infects many species of animals, plants and even humans. Only two particular mycoplasmas affect chickens – M. synoviae and M. gallisepticum (MS and MG).

MS and MG are often referred to as silent diseases because there are little to no visible clinical effects. If present, clinical signs can include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge and water eyes. If these signs are present, it is too late.

MS and MG live within the chicken’s respiratory system and can spread very quickly – either vertically, from hen to chick, or horizontally, from bird to bird. Its most harmful effects, such as high early mortality rates, decreased growth and poor uniformity, are seen in future generations of broilers.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

At Cobb, mycoplasma is considered a “people” disease. This means that people can be the carriers and are typically the ones responsible for introducing bacteria into a flock. According to Kyle Traeger, World Quality Assurance Manager at Cobb, if there is an incident, it is because people have broken two basic biosecurity rules:

  1. Contact with positive non-Cobb commercial or backyard type birds.
  2. Not following basic farm biosecurity procedures, such as proper showering and/or disinfecting vehicles, equipment, supplies, etc. prior to farm entry.

Test Early and Often

There is nothing you can do to cure a mycoplasma-infected flock, although some medications can lessen the infection or shed rate. If flocks become badly infected, in some cases, the flock must be depopulated and eggs must be destroyed, resulting in significant economic losses.

Rather than wait until it is too late, Cobb recommends frequent monitoring to detect mycoplasma as early as possible.

  1. Screen flocks regularly using cleft palate (CP) swabs. Cobb tests on a frequent schedule, although this may not be possible for all farmers.
  2. Using a real-time PCR detection method, labs can test DNA for mycoplasma.
  3. Customers can use their own labs or the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) state facilities.
  4. Remember that detection of a Mycoplasma infection can occur long before any clinical signs are observed.                                   

“The good news is that mycoplasma dies quickly when outside of the chicken and is easily killed by disinfectants,” said Traeger. “So it’s up to us – as well as every employee, visitor and contract grower – to follow the biosecurity standards. If we do this, we know we will keep our birds healthy and disease-free.”

Cobb produces internal monthly biosecurity training modules so employees are up-to-date on protocols and reminded of how important it is to adhere to biosecurity standards and procedures. They also train customers around the world on the importance of biosecurity and how to implement these protocols at their own farms.

Find more information on Cobb’s biosecurity practices in our article:

Cobb’s Top 5 Biosecurity Best Practices

8 Steps to a Complete House Clean Out

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