The microbiome of Escherichia coli and culture-negative nonsevere clinical mastitis: Characterization and associations with linear score and milk production

A. K. Vasquez, E. K. Ganda, M. B. Capel, S. Eicker, P. D. Virkler, R. C. Bicalho, D. V. Nydam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Culture-negative and Escherichia coli cases are uncommonly treated in pathogen-based protocols for nonsevere mastitis. High-throughput 16S rRNA sequencing might reveal the presence of other pathogens and can provide information on microbial diversity. The objective was to explore the milk microbiome at the time of the mastitis event (enrollment) and its association with survival in the herd, milk production, and postevent linear score (LS) for cows with clinical mastitis characterized as negative or E. coli by culture. Fifty E. coli-positive and 35 culture-negative samples from cases were enrolled. No cases were treated with antimicrobials. All E. coli-positive quarters were characterized as transient; microbiological culture of samples taken 15 d postmastitis were negative for this organism. However, a difference in α-diversity (Shannon index) was present between enrollment and follow-up samples (3.8 vs. 5.1). When α-diversity was explored for enrollment E. coli samples, no relationship was observed between the Shannon indices of these samples and postmastitis LS. Alpha-diversity of the enrollment samples was lower for E. coli-positive cows that subsequently had greater losses in milk production. This difference was explained by a greater relative abundance of the family Enterobacteriaceae (67.8 vs. 38.4%) for cows that dropped in production. Analysis of composition of the microbiome identified one phylum, Proteobacteria, that differed between E. coli-positive cows that dropped in production and those that did not. Evaluation of β -diversity found no statistical relationship between postmastitis LS and the microbiome. When evaluating α- and β-diversities and composition of the microbiomes for culture-negative quarters, no associations were found for milk production changes and postmastitis LS. Three cows did not remain in the herd, limiting the ability to analyze survival. The findings suggest that a contributing factor to negative outcomes in E. coli-positive cows is relative abundance of this pathogen, and that no single or collective group of bacterial families is associated with milk production changes or postmastitis LS in culture-negative quarters. Although additional studies should be performed, the absence of associations between outcomes explored and microbial profiles in this study suggests that we are not missing opportunities by not treating nonsevere E. coli or culture-negative mastitis cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-594
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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