First project for the research network on animal health and welfare in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

The first research project supported by the thematic research network on animal health and welfare in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region (SAARA), in which ANSES is participating, is seeking a better understanding of the evolution of mycoplasmas, a bacterial genus that contains some major animal pathogens.

The Adapt-Myco project was selected following the first call for projects of the SAARA thematic network. This network was created in 2018, and brings together ANSES, INRAE and VetAgro Sup with the aim of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration between research organisations in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Two joint research units (UMRs) are involved in this first project: MYCO (Animal mycoplasmoses – ANSES and VetAgro Sup) and EPIA (Epidemiology of animal and zoonotic diseases – INRAE and VetAgro Sup). It will use a genomic epidemiology approach to shed light on the evolution of two species of mycoplasma, a type of pathogenic bacteria. In France, the species Mycoplasma bovis is responsible for mainly respiratory diseases in cattle, while Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies capri causes contagious agalactia in goats.

Two populations with different evolutions

The two mycoplasma populations have evolved in very different ways: the one affecting cattle has become very homogeneous, even clonal in France, and has developed strong resistance to antibiotics since the 2000s. Conversely, the one contaminating goats remains very heterogeneous and is mostly still susceptible to antibiotics. The aim of the project is to understand why these two species have evolved differently, particularly in relation to farming practices. To do this, the team of scientists will be examining a collection of strains maintained as part of the activities of the Vigimyc epidemiological surveillance network, led by the MYCO UMR. This collection is very complete, and comes with detailed knowledge about the characteristics of the strains and the collection conditions. Around 100 strains of each mycoplasma species have been selected according to various criteria. The genomes from these strains will be fully sequenced and compared with each other, to clarify each population's evolutionary history and how this history may have been shaped by farming practices. The project officially started in September 2020. The partner organisations are providing a total of €20,000 in co-funding and the first results are expected in the second half of 2021.