The International Organization for Mycoplasmology (IOM) was founded in 1976 as a nonprofit organization and exists to promote the cooperative international study of mycoplasmas (Mollicutes) and mycoplasmal diseases and to disseminate knowledge about their characteristics, effects, transmission, and control. The society of about 500 microbiologists, clinicians, biochemists, entomologists, plant pathologists, veterinarians, geneticists, scientists actively encourages personal contacts and information exchange by a variety of activities.

Among them are the IOM’s sponsorship of biennial international scientific congresses, publication of its scientific proceedings, awarding international travel grants for students to attend its meetings, supporting workshops for the study of mycoplasmal techniques, publishing a quarterly newsletter and now a home page on the Internet.

To advance mutual goals and interests, the International Research Program of Comparative Mycoplasmology (IRPCM)(formerly a consultative group sponsored by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) was affiliated with the IOM in 1986. The IRPCM is a permanent standing committee of the IOM and has special status. It is composed of over two dozen specific interest working-teams that meet with regularity. The teams analyze and summarize recent developments in their respective interest areas, such as, mycoplasma arthritis, avian mycoplasmas, cell culture mycoplasmas, molecular genetics, phytoplasmas, ureaplasmas.

Their deliberations and consultations are published in a comprehensive and extensive biennial report comprising the entire field of mycoplasmology. The IRPCM places some emphasis on pathogenesis, vaccine development and the mycoplasmal diseases of domestic animals and plants.

Members of the IOM also constitute the International Committee on Systematic Bacteriology Subcommittee on the Taxonomy of Mollicutes. This body makes recommendations on minimum standards for the description of the class Mollicutes to the microbiological community via the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria.

Celebrating its 40th year in 2016, the IOM extends its committment to both advance membership in its society and foster an understanding of the characteristics and role of the Mollicutes in nature. By this website, the IOM seeks to encourage and support young and established scientists within an international and interactive consortium that encompasses human, animal, plant, and insect microbiologists involved or devoted to the study of the Mollicutes.

IOM Congresses are held every two years at various venues around the world. Information on the location of past congresses and future congresses can be found in this web site.

Sustaining Members

History

The first efforts toward the study of those microbial forms that would eventually be called mollicutes really began with the pioneering efforts of a group of French bacteriologists. In 1898, E. Nocard and E.R. Roux, and their collaborators, A. Borrel, A. Salimbeni, and E. Dujardin-Baumetz, first cultured the microbe of contagious pleuropneumonia of cattle on artificial broth. Two years later, E. Dujardin-Baumetz was able to adapt the organism to a solid medium. He observed the small colonies with the now familiar dark center and light peripheral area, and documented the filterability of the organism. Twenty-five years went by (1923) before J. Bridre and A. Donatien, again in France, cultivated the organism associated with agalactia of sheep and goats and established the etiologic role of the organism in the disease.

These discoveries stimulated considerable interest in filterable bacteria and by the mid to late 1930s more researchers began to study additional members of this group of microbes that had come to be known as “pleuropneumonia-like organisms,” or “PPLO”. In England, Ledingham worked on their morphology; Klieneberger-Nobel was isolating the organisms from rodents; and Laidlaw and Elford were cultivating what would later turn out to be acholeplasmas from sewage. In Germany, Seiffert was also growing so-called saprophytic PPLO from soil and compost. In the US, Nelson was isolating the so-called pleuropneumonia-like organisms from chickens and rodents, Sabin was also studying similar organisms with neurotoxic properties, and, in 1937, Dienes and Edsall cultivated the first pleuropneumonia-like organism from the urogenital tract of a female patient.

Although the period of 1940-60 saw further progress in understanding the biology of these organisms, the 1962 discovery of the causative agent of primary atypical pneumonia of humans provided not only an important stimulus to study further the organisms in man and their pathogenicity, but it provoked a major change in the classification and nomenclature of the organisms. Now these filterable, wall-less prokaryotes were given the collective term “mycoplasmas,” since it was proposed by an international taxonomy subcommittee that all organisms in this collection be assigned to the genus Mycoplasma. However, this terminology became outdated relatively soon, because many new and different mycoplasmas were being isolated and characterized, and new taxonomic names and classification levels were being used to separate these organisms from those in the genus Mycoplasma (such as members of the genus Acholeplasma, genus Ureaplasma, etc.). Eventually, a revised classification scheme was devised whereby all filterable, wall-less prokaryotes were covered under a broad system called the class Mollicutes.

One might well consider the next thirty-years as the “golden age” of mycoplasmology. Major advances occurred on many fronts, including the discovery of mollicutes in plant and insect hosts, the first helical mollicutes (spiroplasmas), new strictly anaerobic mollicutes (anaeroplasmas), of mycoplasma and acholeplasma viruses, the occurrence of many newly isolated mollicutes from man and animals and their pathogenicity, the expanding field of molecular biology and genetics of mollicutes, and new concepts of how mollicutes interact with host immune responses. Some of the most exciting developments are now taking place in understanding how mollicutes might avoid host immune defenses and interact with other microbial agents to induce disease. Again, these major advancements have produced changes in our understanding of the evolution and classification of Mollicutes, so that we now recognize such new organisms as the mesoplasmas, entomoplasmas, asteroleplasmas, etc.

Events leading to the eventual formation of an international society of workers in the field of mycoplasmology really began in early 1972. The Ciba Foundation in London sponsored a symposium on “Pathogenic Mycoplasmas”, whereby a small group of researchers interested in human, animal, plant, and insect mollicute diseases gathered to discuss problems of mutual interest. This symposium stimulated considerable international interaction and cooperation among workers in the field, and eventually led to discussions and plans for a larger international symposium on “Mycoplasmas of Man, Animals, Plants and Insects” in Bordeaux, France in 1974. This meeting, sponsored by the University of Bordeaux II and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) in France, was attended by over 300 participants from 31 countries. The proceedings of the conference were published as a document in the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) series (volume 33).

During the Bordeaux symposium, discussions were held with some of the participants regarding whether an international organization might be formed to stimulate further cooperation and promote future meetings. As a result of these discussions, a group of individuals were invited to meet (including D.G. ff Edward, E.A. Freundt, G.S. Cottew, J.M. Bove, W. Bredt, M.F. Barile, S. Razin, R.F. Whitcomb, and J.G. Tully) to plan a series of ad hoc committees for the formation of a new international organization. The committees were charged with the preparation of a constitution for the organization, to nominate candidates for office, to formulate membership publicity and financial appeals, and to plan for the first scientific congress of the organization. As a consequence of these joint efforts, the first election of officers for the newly formed International Organization for Mycoplasmology occurred in the Spring of 1976: Chair, Joseph G. Tully (USA); Chair-Elect, Shmuel Razin (Israel); Secretary-General, D. Taylor-Robinson (UK), and Treasurer, Michael F. Barile (USA). At Large Members appointed to the Board included: G. Biberfeld (Sweden), J.M. Bove (France), E.A. Freundt (Denmark), L. Stipkovits (Hungary), and R.F. Whitcomb (USA). The numerous individuals and members of the IOM who have later served the Organization in elective office or in appointed positions and have contributed greatly to the growth and recognition of the Organization are listed in the IOM Handbook.

Other Activities

It is appropriate also to detail here some of the other major events that have occurred within the development of IOM and how these have contributed to the field of mycoplasmology. In 1978-79, two important additions occurred in the area of IOM international activities. The International Research Program on Comparative Mycoplasmology (IRPCM), which had been launched in 1971 under auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, became an integral part of the IOM. This collaborative research program was initially formed to promote the characterization of animal mycoplasmas at the international level, and it operated through a directing group (the Board) composed of the heads of specific working teams and a group of outside experts. The Board and program coordinated information on animal mycoplasmas and their diseases, and published a series of working group documents on standard mycoplasma techniques. Today, the IRPCM is composed of mycoplasmologists from over 100 laboratories around the world collaborating within thirteen working teams on the development of improved techniques for isolation and characterization of mollicutes from man, animals, plants and insects. In 1983, the IRPCM sponsored publication of the first two volumes of Methods in Mycoplasmology (Academic Press, Inc.), providing wide dissemination of standard techniques for mollicutes.

In 1979, in association with the University of Bordeaux II and the French Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, the IOM began the sponsorship of the first of a series of International Mycoplasma Techniques Courses in Bordeaux, France. Twenty-nine participants from 16 countries spent three weeks in an intensive and comprehensive program learning basic bench techniques for mollicutes. The faculty was composed of 15 IOM members from outside France and 5 local faculty. A repeat of the course was given in 1983, with 31 participants from 14 countries. In 1987, the central theme of the course was changed to an emphasis on gene technology and the molecular biology of mollicutes, including monoclonal antibody techniques. Thirty students, from 9 countries, attended the two and 1/2 week course in Bordeaux. Again, eleven IOM members from Bordeaux and outside areas participated in the teaching program. In collaboration with the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS), the IOM also participated in a techniques course on “Rapid Diagnosis of Mycoplasmas” at the Hebrew University, Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, Israel on August 11-23, 1991. Again, in all of these programs, the IOM has contributed funds for fellowships to cover partial support of travel expenses of student participants.

In addition to the biennial congresses, the IOM has sponsored a number of special symposia. The first, “Mycoplasma hominis, a Human Pathogen” was organized by P-A. Mardh (Sweden), B.R. Moller (Denmark), and W.M. McCormack (USA), and was co-sponsored with a number of other organizations. The symposium was held March 8-12, 1983 in Bietostolen, Norway, with the proceedings published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Vol. 1 O, supplement, 1983). The second symposium, entitled “Ureaplasmas of Humans, with Emphasis Upon Maternal and Neonatal Infections” was held in Seattle, Washington (USA) on October 10-12, 1985. The organizers were G.H. Cassell (USA), W.A. Clyde (USA), G.E. Kenny (USA), W.M. McCormack (USA), and D. Taylor-Robinson (UK). Abbott Laboratories acted as co-sponsor. In December 1991, the IOM cosponsored, along with The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Abbott Laboratories, an international symposium in Scottsdale, Arizona on “The Changing Role of Mycoplasmas in Respiratory Disease and AIDS”. The Program Chair was G.H. Cassell, with a Program and Planning Committee of J.B. Baseman, J.M. Bove, S.C. Lo, L. Montagnier, R.L.Quackenbush, D. Taylor-Robinson, and J.G. Tully. The proceedings were published in Clinical Infectious Diseases 17(supplement 1 ), in August 1993.

Today, the IOM represents a growing membership of active research scientists, teachers, and industrial and commercial scientists, including a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines within microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, immunology, virology, clinical medicine, veterinary science, plant pathology, and entomology. The members, from all parts of the world, have through their support of the IOM promoted cooperative international study and dissemination of knowledge of wall-less eubacteria and the diseases they cause. We look forward to the second “golden age” in mycoplasmology in the years to come.

Joseph G. Tully IOM Archivist 1978-88

Admended by Chris Minion last on August 1, 2012

Founders

Michael F. Barile (USA) (deceased)

Joseph M. Bove (France) (deceased)

Wolfgang Bredt (Germany)

Geoff S. Cottew (Australia) (deceased)

Derrick J. Edward (United Kingdom) (deceased)

Eyvind A. Freundt (Denmark) (deceased)

Shmuel Razin (Israel)

Joseph G. Tully (USA)(deceased)

Honorary Members

Derrick J. Edward* (1976)

Emmy Klieneberger-Nobel* (1976)

Harry Morton* (1978)

Roger M. Cole* (1982)

Gita Kagan* (1982)

Maurice Shepard* (1982)

Lewis Thomas* (1982)

Osamu Kitamoto (1984)

Alan Rodwell* (1984)

Michael F. Barile* (1994)

Geoff S. Cottew* (1994)

Eyvind A. Freundt* (1994)

R. Nigel Gourlay* (1994)

Klaus Lind (1994)

Wallace A. Clyde* (1996)

Ronald H. Leach (1996)

Joseph G. Tully* (1998)

Jose M. Bove* (1998)

Wolfgang Bredt (1998)

Shmuel Razin (1998)

David Taylor-Robinson (2000)

Robert Whitcomb* (2002)

Dennis Pollack (2004)

Janet Robertson (2004)

Christiane Bebear (2006)

Gail H. Cassell (2006)

Richard F. Ross (2006)

Janet M. Bradbury (2008)

F. Chris Minion (2008)

Ken Waites (2010)

Sharon Levisohn (2010)

*deceased