Kansas State Researchers Develop Mastitis Test

The researchers say that the new test identifies mastitis in dairy cows earlier and costs less than current technologies on the market.


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Researchers from Kansas State University say they have developed a test that can detect the early stages of mastitis in dairy cows. The test, according to the researchers, identifies the disease earlier and costs less than current technologies on the market.

“The classical mastitis tests estimate the numbers, not the activity, of neutrophil cells, which are the dominant cells that travel to the inflamed udder during mastitis,” said Deryl Troyer, DVM, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and physiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Many times early and emerging cases of mastitis are not caught by the tests because they count the numbers rather than the activity. These are often the most important cases to catch.”

Dr. Troyer is leading the project with Stefan Bossmann, Ph.D., professor of chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Early detection will help dairy producers better treat cows with emerging cases of mastitis as well as reduce transmission to other cows in the dairy operation, according to the university.

The project uses the duo’s nanoplatform technology that can quickly detect cancer cells and tumors before physical symptoms ever appear. The researchers said that the test easily translated to mastitis detection because several of the enzymes that cause inflammation in human cancers also cause inflammation in the udder of the dairy cows.

“We looked at about 30 enzymes and identified three that are highly indicative of mastitis,” Dr. Bossmann said. “These three enzymes and this nanoplatform make it possible to detect preclinical mastitis cases that have high enzymatic activity but a low somatic cell count. These cases have previously been undiscoverable, so there is not a test on the market for this combination.”

To test for mastitis, a sample of pasteurized milk is put into a buffer solution containing the enzyme-detecting nanoplatform. The nanoplatform consists of iron nanoparticles coated with amino acids and a fluorescent dye. The amino acids and dye interact with enzymes in the milk. The sample is incubated for up to 30 minutes and then examined for three enzymes that cause mastitis.

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Recent tests in the Troyer and Bossmann laboratories have detected subclinical mastitis in less than five minutes, according to the university.

This new mastitis test could be used today by large-scale dairies and eventually by robotic dairy facilities, the researchers said. Troyer and Bossman hope to make the test a more viable option for individual and smallholder dairy operations through more development.

Mastitis is the most common disease in U.S. dairy cattle and costs the U.S. dairy industry more than $2 billion annually in losses, the university noted.

The project is being funded through the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Kansas Board of Regents and a Global Food Systems Innovation grant.

The Kansas State University Research Foundation, a nonprofit corporation responsible for managing technology, has filed a patent application for the nanoplatform transfer activities at the university. It can be licensed through the Kansas State University Institute for commercialization by contacting 785-532-3900 or ic@k-state.edu.

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