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Research: Can new marker identify mastitis resistance?

07 November 2018

New research to study what genetically separates dairy cows that are more resistant to mastitis versus those that are more susceptible has identified a new marker that could be the key, according to Dr. Gina Pighetti, associate professor at the University of Tennessee and leader of the study.

Using a different approach, Dr. Pighetti and her research team used cows for the study that were known to be somewhat resistant to mastitis in that they hadn't be diagnosed with mastitis in at least one lactation. The cows were stressed and infected with streptococcus uberis mastitis within three days after calving. The cows did develop an infection.  

"But what happened is they were all very different in how they responded to the infection," Dr. Pighetti explained at the international meeting for National Mastitis Council in Milano, Italy. "We had some cows that were highly inflammatory and some with low inflammation and very low bacterial loads and some that cured very quickly."

Thus, a group of cows cured in under 21 days. Another group of cows cured in 21 to 28 days. However, at 28 days which was the end of the study, a group of cows still had the strep uberis infection.

"One of the coolest things we found is a marker, or a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) that was linked to the phenotype we were studying," Dr. Pighetti noted. "What is it about that marker that allows a cow to be more susceptible or more resistant? Those are some of the things we can [test further] is one, not just having the marker to go out and select for those animals, but then also figure out what's different between them. If I can do that, then I can compensate for the weak spots through management or new therapies, prevention strategies, you name it."

When asked when producers might benefit from this study, Dr. Pighetti said it will likely be a few years. When working with cutting edge genetics, it requires patience and additional testing. 

"This would, I hope, go into a larger marker panel where we can also see how it ties into milk production and fertility traits because we want the best balanced cow we can get," she noted. "What we're also following up with in the lab is how does this change the immune response of the cow, so she's better able to resist infection. If we find that key, then we have the opportunity to develop new therapies that are not antibiotic based to treat our animals."

For more information about cattle diagnostics, click here or connect to the Thermo Fisher Scientific Cattle Resource Center.

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor



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