Spiroplasma – an emerging arthropod-borne pathogen?
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Department of Biological Health Hazards and Parasitology, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Department of Parasitology and Invasive Diseases, National Veterinary Research Institute, Pulawy, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med 2015;22(4):589–593
Spiroplasma is a genus of wall-less, low-GC, small Gram-positive bacteria of the internal contractile cytoskeleton, with helical morphology and motility. The genus is classified within the class Mollicutes. Spiroplasma / host interactions can be classified as commensal, pathogenic or mutualist. The majority of spiroplasmas are found to be commensals of insects, arachnids, crustaceans or plants, whereas a small number of species are pathogens of plants, insects, and crustaceans. Insects are particularly rich sources of spiroplasmas. The bacteria are common in haematophagous arthropods: deerflies, horseflies, mosquitoes, and in ticks, where they may occur abundantly in salivary glands. The ability of spiroplasmas to propagate in rodents was experimentally proven, and Spiroplasma infections have been reported recently in humans. Some authors have purported an etiological role of Spiroplasma in causing transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), but convincing proof is lacking. The possibility for humans and other vertebrates to be infected with Spiroplasma spp. in natural conditions is largely unknown, as well as the possibility of the transmission of these bacteria by ticks and haematophagous insects. Nevertheless, in the light of new data, such possibilities cannot be excluded.
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