Researchers from Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut (SSI) have made a groundbreaking discovery regarding hand infections resulting from contact with seals. They have identified a new bacterial species called Mycoplasma phocimorsus, which is responsible for severe hand infections in individuals who handle seals. This finding challenges the previous association of seal finger with another mycoplasma species.
The SSI team conducted a study from 2000 to 2014, during which they isolated six independent strains of Mycoplasma phocimorsus from Scandinavian patients with seal finger or septic arthritis. All patients had reported direct contact with seals prior to developing the infection. This discovery sheds light on the unique properties of Mycoplasma phocimorsus and its implications for diagnosis and treatment.
One of the challenges posed by Mycoplasma phocimorsus is its resistance to standard bacterial culture media and common antibiotic treatments like penicillins. However, the SSI researchers successfully isolated the bacterium from patient samples obtained from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden over an extended period. This allowed them to identify the distinctiveness of this newly discovered species.
The implications of this discovery extend beyond identification. The researchers found that Mycoplasma phocimorsus responds favorably to antibiotics other than penicillins, which opens up possibilities for more targeted and effective treatment strategies. This could potentially reduce complications and improve outcomes in cases of severe hand infections associated with seals.
The researchers also provided detailed information about the genomic characteristics of Mycoplasma phocimorsus. Through phylogenetic analyses, they identified it as a distinct species within the genus Mycoplasma. The proposed nomenclature for this novel species is Mycoplasma phocimorsus sp. nov.
This groundbreaking discovery underscores the importance of understanding and combating emerging infectious threats. Mycoplasma phocimorsus now joins the ranks of medically significant bacteria, highlighting the need for ongoing research and collaboration to effectively manage infectious diseases. As Denmark celebrates this milestone in medical research, the global scientific community takes note of the significance of this finding.