UDDERCHECK®: Knowledge of pathogens is the most useful tool to establish a correct mastitis control program

Can you imagine a world without mastitis in dairy cows… It sounds like utopia, doesn’t it? In recent years, many milk quality programs have helped dairy farmers worldwide to control mastitis. But still bovine mastitis continues to be the most frequent and costly disease of dairy cows. Everyone involved in milk quality such as vets, farmers and dairy sector professionals want to know the predominant type of pathogen involved in clinical and subclinical mastitis on the farm. In other words, identifying the type of bacteria on a dairy farm will always allow you to target the correct preventive measures, and to confirm the relevance of vaccination against bovine mastitis.

Tools
For this reason, HIPRA has developed a useful diagnostic tool known asUDDERCHECK® that uses a new methodology to detect the major mastitis causative agents in collected milk. The main reason for the development of UDDERCHECK® was to cover a gap in the previous HIPRA mastitis diagnostic tool called STARTCHECK®. Unlike STARTCHECK®, UDDERCHECK® is suitable for the detection of Strep. uberis, one of the most intriguing bacteria affecting European herds. Strep. uberis is frequently reported due its increasing incidence in clinical mastitis and the difficulties encountered when treating it with standard antibiotic protocols.

It is well known that over 90% of mastitis-causing pathogens are bacteria. Some of these are found in the udder tissues, spreading from cow-to-cow (contagious pathogens such as S. aureus) or in the cow’s surroundings (environmental pathogens such as Strep. uberis, E. coli, coliforms), such as bedding materials, manure and soil. Another group are mixed bacteria which are mainly represented by Coagulase Negative Staphylococci (CNS).

Mastitis is a complex disease which is why we need to work on different levels. The same applies to the diagnosis of mastitis. UDDERCHECK® can be used to complement the Somatic Cell Count (SCC) and bacterial culture to monitor mastitis at herd level1.
More and more veterinarians and dairy farmers are aware of the pathogens causing mastitis on their farms but is very interesting to know what is happening on a neighbour’s farm, the biggest farm in the region or just in another country. Thanks to farmers and vets across Europe, HIPRA has analyzed 8,626 samples from 2011 to 2016. The samples were processed and tested using the Real-Time Multiplex PCR assay2, to detect the presence of Streptococcus uberis, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Coagulase Negative Staphylococci (CNS) and coliforms.
Real-time PCR is a new diagnostic technology with more accurate detection which also works in cows in treatment. The special card that is attached, called an FTA card, makes the sampling procedure, transportation and management of the sample in the lab much easier. For this reason, testing bacteria targeted by the vaccination and their significance in a sample of bulk milk tank and a representative group of sick animals, enables a general overview to be obtained of the dairy farm and of the affected animals.

Results
The graph below shows the trends in bacteria causing bovine mastitis over the last 6 years. One thing is definitely very clear – a significant trend is observed in Europe with more environmental pathogens like Strep. uberis and E. coli. Moreover, this indicates that as environmental pathogens are becoming more prevalent on farms, this will present a higher risk of Strep.uberis becoming a serious new threat to farms all over Europe.
Many vets and farmers already recognize Strep. uberis as an emerging pathogen on their farms. Some of the main features of this pathogen are the clinical outcome of infection, high levels of individual SCC and extended treatment protocols which are frequently repeated. For all these reasons, mastitis caused by Streptococcus uberis requires a new approach as well as new tools which help to control and prevent this threat.

Summary
A world without mastitis will never exist as long as we produce milk from dairy cows. Nowadays, we should pay more attention to mastitis caused by environmental pathogens such as Strep. uberis. For this reason, we are able to support you with a useful new tool known as UDDERCHECK® which helps to identify pathogenic bacteria present in milk samples. Thanks to its parameters (high specificity and sensitivity), UDDERCHEK® avoids the limitations experienced with standard bacteriology. In other words, it is a new tool in the toolbox which will help us to succeed in the fight against bovine mastitis!

Text – Michael Pochodyla, CPM

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