Immune response in nonspecific mastitis: What can it tell us?

F N Souza, M G Blagitz, C F Batista, P V Takano, R G Gargano, S A Diniz, M X Silva, J A Ferronatto, K R Santos, M B Heinemann, S De Vliegher, A M M P Della Libera
Journal of Dairy Science 2020 March 27
We analyzed a large number of immune response parameters from quarter milk samples with distinct bacteriological and quarter somatic cell count (qSCC) statuses. Furthermore, we sought to explore and identify displayed immune response patterns in milk samples from mammary glands with nonspecific mastitis. Thus, 92 quarter milk samples from 28 cows were stratified into 4 groups, as follows: (1) 49 culture-negative control quarters with a low qSCC (<1 × 105 cells/mL) from 19 dairy cows (so-called healthy quarters); (2) 15 culture-negative quarters with high qSCC (>2 × 105 cells/mL; so-called quarters with nonspecific mastitis) from 10 dairy cows; (3) 8 culture-positive quarters with low qSCC (noninflammatory quarters with low qSCC) from 5 dairy cows; and (4) 20 culture-positive quarters with high qSCC (so-called truly infected quarters) from 8 dairy cows. Using flow cytometry, we evaluated the percentage of milk neutrophils and their viability, intracellular reactive oxygen species production, phagocytosis, and the expression of CD62L, CD11b, and CD44 for each of the 4 quarter strata. Furthermore, the percentage of monocyte/macrophages, B cells, and T lymphocyte subsets were evaluated by flow cytometry. Milk samples from bacteriologically negative quarters (both with a low and elevated qSCC) had a lower qSCC than those with bacteriologically positive outcomes (both with a low and elevated qSCC). As expected, the healthy quarters showed the lowest percentage of neutrophils and also showed a higher percentage of milk monocytes/macrophages and lower percentage of T lymphocytes than truly infected quarters. The most prominent result of the present study is that quarters with nonspecific mastitis showed the highest percentage of milk CD4+ T lymphocytes. The healthy quarters had a lower percentage of apoptotic neutrophils than noninflammatory and truly infected quarters, although it did not differ from those from the quarters with nonspecific mastitis. Our study supports the role of differential cell counting in the diagnosis of mastitis, as the milk leukocyte populations markedly fluctuate under healthy and inflammatory conditions. Furthermore, an increase in milk CD4+ T cells was associated with nonspecific mastitis, suggesting an increase in this leukocyte subpopulation is correlated with low bacterial shedding. Our study allows us to go further in our understanding of mammary gland immunity, providing further insights on potential protective mammary gland immunity, which we hypothesize can open new avenues for the development of novel targets that can promote bovine udder health.

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