Infection strategies of mycoplasmas: Unraveling the panoply of virulence factors

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Mycoplasmas, the smallest bacteria lacking a cell wall, can cause various diseases in both humans and animals. Mycoplasmas harbor a variety of virulence factors that enable them to overcome numerous barriers of entry into the host; using accessory proteins, mycoplasma adhesins can bind to the receptors or extracellular matrix of the host cell. Although the host immune system can eradicate the invading mycoplasma in most cases, a few sagacious mycoplasmas employ a series of invasion and immune escape strategies to ensure their continued survival within their hosts. For instance, capsular polysaccharides are crucial for anti-phagocytosis and immunomodulation. Invasive enzymes degrade reactive oxygen species, neutrophil extracellular traps, and immunoglobulins. Biofilm formation is important for establishing a persistent infection. During proliferation, successfully surviving mycoplasmas generate numerous metabolites, including hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide; or secrete various exotoxins, such as community-acquired respiratory distress syndrome toxin, and hemolysins; and express various pathogenic enzymes, all of which have potent toxic effects on host cells. Furthermore, some inherent components of mycoplasmas, such as lipids, membrane lipoproteins, and even mycoplasma-generated superantigens, can exert a significant pathogenic impact on the host cells or the immune system. In this review, we describe the proposed virulence factors in the toolkit of notorious mycoplasmas to better understand the pathogenic features of these bacteria, along with their pathogenic mechanisms.

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Hemotropic mycoplasma is caused by bacteria from the Mycoplasma genus, which lack a cell wall and are unable to replicate by themselves. To survive they have to infect red blood cells. Like the other bacteria discussed here, emerging species are found in bats. Hemotropic mycoplasma may be a co-factor in white nose syndrome, a fungal disease that is killing bats.

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