Mycoplasma species are of interest as possible primary pathogens in the pneumonia complex of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). Previous investigations have not commonly detected low frequencies of Mycoplasma spp. from free-ranging bighorn sheep, possibly due to the fastidious and slow growth of these organisms. We developed a culture protocol that employed an average initial 3-day enrichment culture in liquid Hayflick broth in a CO2-enhanced atmosphere. The broth was plated to solid Hayflick medium and the cultures observed for growth for up to 30 days. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed on DNA isolated from the enrichment broth and on isolates obtained from culture using Mycoplasma genus-specific PCR assays and species-specific PCR assays for M. arginini and M. ovipneumoniae. Some cultures that grew on Hayflick plates were picked as single colonies but were mixed because two organisms may grow together and appear as a single colony. Culture and PCR tests produced similar results for M. arginini, but for M. ovipneumoniae, culture alone was less accurate than PCR. Use of genus-specific primers also may allow detection of other species in samples negative for M. arginini and M. ovipneumoniae. Two methods of transport from field to laboratory (Port-a-CulTM tubes, cryoprotectant in liquid N2 and Fisher Transport System) gave similar results under our study conditions.
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