Cell-wall-less uncultivated parasitic bacteria that attach to the surface of host erythrocytes currently are classified in the order Rickettsiales, family Anaplasmataceae, in the genera Haemobartonella and Eperythrozoon. Recently 16S rRNA gene sequences have been determined for four of these species: Haemobartonella felis and Haemobartonella muris and Eperythrozoon suis and Eperythrozoon wenyonii. Phylogenetic analysis of these sequence data shows that these haemotrophic bacteria are closely related to species in the genus Mycoplasma (class Mollicutes). These haemotrophic bacteria form a new phylogenetic cluster within the so-called pneumoniae group of Mycoplasma and share properties with one another as well as with other members of the pneumoniae group. These studies clearly indicate that the classification of these taxa should be changed to reflect their phylogenetic affiliation and the following is proposed: (i) that Haemobartonella felis and Haemobartonella muris should be transferred to the genus Mycoplasma as 'Candidatus Mycoplasma haemofelis' and 'Candidatus Mycoplasma haemomuris' and (ii) that Eperythrozoon suis and Eperythrozoon wenyonii should be transferred to the genus Mycoplasma as 'Candidatus Mycoplasma haemosuis' and 'Candidatus Mycoplasma wenyonii'. The former Haemobartonella and Eperythrozoon species described here represent a new group of parasitic mycoplasmas that possess a pathogenic capacity previously unrecognized among the mollicutes. These haemotrophic mycoplasmas have been given the trivial name haemoplasmas. These results call into question the affiliation of the remaining officially named species of Haemobartonella and Eperythrozoon which should be considered species of uncertain affiliation pending the resolution of their phylogenetic status.


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