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Milk test could spot common dairy cattle disease

Detection of a signature inflammation marker could aid early detection of mastitis in cows.

A novel test for a component in milk could help lower the incidence of a prevalent disease in dairy cattle, research suggests.

The discovery, by a team of Roslin scientists, could help to reduce the economic and welfare impact of mastitis, characterised by mammary inflammation, and reduce the use of preventative antibiotics.

Researchers have determined that levels of a molecule found in milk cells could be used as an accurate way to detect inflammation before clinical signs of mastitis are visible, potentially enabling rapid intervention to limit the impact of disease.

Accurate diagnosis

A team of researchers sought to examine whether levels of genetic material found in cells, known as miRNAs, could be used as reliable indicators of disease.

They studied levels of four types of miRNAs, previously linked to inflammation, in more than 200 samples of milk taken from cows at various stages of their productive life. These results were compared against mastitis scores using the conventional California Mastitis Test.

Their outcome showed that levels of three of the four miRNA molecules, known as miR-142, miR-146a and miR-223, could potentially be used for high accuracy, early diagnosis of mastitis before the onset of clinical signs.

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

Mastitis in dairy cattle is a widespread problem and our ability to tell which animals will or will not become sick has not changed much in a decade. We need novel, reliable, cost-effective methods to spot disease early, preventing economic losses and limiting disease. Our study shows that analysis of miRNA molecules could offer a novel and accurate method of detecting mastitis in its early stages.

Dr Xavier DonadeuRoslin Institute

** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the BBSRC and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **

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