Somatic cell scores and clinical signs following experimental intramammary infection of dairy cows with a Staphylococcus aureus small colony variant (S. aureus SCV) in comparison to other bovine strains

Heba Atalla, Carlton Gyles, Bruce Wilkie, Ken Leslie, Bonnie Mallard
Veterinary Microbiology 2009 June 12, 137 (3): 326-34
A recently isolated bovine Staphylococcus aureus small colony variant (SCV) was shown to persist within cultured endothelial cells. However, the clinical importance of S. aureus SCV in persistent infection of the mammary gland is unknown. The hypothesis tested here was a naturally occurring bovine S. aureus SCV, Heba3231, and a Newbould hemB mutant that was an artificially created SCV would establish mild intramammary infection and induce a different host response compared to their isogenic parental strains, 3231 and Newbould 305. Four groups of clinically healthy cows, 5 cows/treatment group, were infected by the intramammary route with SCV Heba3231, strain 3231, the hemB mutant or strain Newbould 305. Three quarters of the mammary gland of each cow were challenged with approximately 5000 colony-forming units of bacteria and the fourth quarter was infused with PBS. Cows were monitored and assigned clinical scores for the first 5 days post-challenge based on rectal temperature, appetite, milk yield, udder uniformity, milk appearance, bacterial culture of foremilk samples and somatic cell score (SCS). All cows were examined for chronic infection up to day 36 post-challenge. Cows challenged with SCV strains developed mastitis that was mild compared with that induced by the parent strains. Cows challenged with strain 3231 developed the most severe clinical mastitis. SCS from all treatment groups were significantly (P<0.05) higher at days 2-5 and 14-36 post-infection compared to day 0 before challenge. This milder host response to SCVs may represent an adaptation of S. aureus to the mammary gland environment.

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