Bovine mastitis is an inflammation of the udder, which most often results from an intramammary infection (IMI). Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium frequently responsible for IMIs, is of particular interest since it is transmittable from cow to cow during milking and is therefore considered contagious. S. aureus IMIs often remain asymptomatic (subclinical mastitis), a situation that allows S. aureus to disseminate within the herds. Furthermore, staphylococcal IMI commonly lead to chronic mastitis disease due to the persistence of the original infective bacteria despite antibiotic treatment. Mastitis decreases milk production and milk quality. Due to the cost of treatment and the loss of milk, which must be discarded due to the possible presence of antibiotic residues, it is the most costly disease of dairy cows.
Novel methodologies to prevent or treat S. aureus IMI are needed. In Canada, the Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network and also the Op+Lait strategic network for milk of optimal quality unite a critical mass of research scientists who work together to provide knowledge and solutions on S. aureus mastitis. Furthermore, Op+Lait supports research activities that not only focus on udder health, but also examine the entire path between milk production at the farm and milk transformation at the plant to ensure that practices at the farm result in a milk composition that is compatible to the milk transformation processes. Indeed, historically, there has been a gap between dairy production and transformation. On the one hand, milk is produced and is transferred off farm, and on the other hand, milk is received and used for transformation at the plant. Op+Lait now allows some coordination between research activities that are aimed at udder health at the farm and milk transformation at the plant. In this context, the laboratory of Professor François Malouin diligently works on multiple research projects aiming at improving udder health while sustaining optimal milk quality for transformation. His team of 14 graduate students, research professionals and trainees investigate the various aspects of S. aureus pathogenesis and virulence, i.e., the strategies and tools utilized by the bacterium to colonize and multiply in
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