Bovine intramammary Escherichia coli challenge infections in late gestation demonstrate a dominant antiinflammatory immunological response

R. R. Quesnell, S. Klaessig, J. L. Watts, Y. H. Schukken*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Coliform mastitis that presents itself at parturition or in the early weeks of bovine lactation is often characterized by severe inflammation and impaired milk production and can lead to death of the animal. Chronic intramammary infections caused by persistent strains of Escherichia coli may result in high production losses. The aim of this study was to determine the inflammatory response to a teat-canal challenge of bovine mammary glands with a persistent strain of E. coli during late gestation (dry period) and into early lactation. Two weeks before parturition, animals were challenged in 2 quarters with 30 cfu of a persistent strain of E. coli; control quarters were vehicle-infused and not infused, respectively. Samples of dry cow secretions were taken from all quarters before challenge and at 6, 12, 18, 24, 48, 72, 96, and 120. h following challenge. Colostrum samples and milk samples were taken from all quarters at parturition and 6, 12, 18, 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120. h postpartum. Bacterial culture, combined with random amplified polymorphic DNA genetic strain-typing analysis, indicated recovery of the bacterial challenge strain until 48 to 96. h postchallenge, and again at parturition and up to 6 and 12. h postpartum. One animal exhibited clinical mastitis and the bacterial challenge strain was evident to at least 12 d postpartum. During twice-daily milkings, production levels were lower in bacteria-challenged quarters compared with controls. Somatic cell counts decreased to normal levels at a slower rate in challenged quarters compared with control quarters. Cytokine analysis indicated a minimal proinflammatory cytokine response, including interleukin-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α in challenged-quarter dry cow samples up to 120. h postchallenge. Interleukin-10 levels were significantly increased by 12. h postchallenge in secretions from challenged and control quarters. These preliminary results in 2 cows indicate that proinflammatory signaling after intramammary bacterial infection may be actively suppressed during late gestation. We hypothesize that this immune-inhibitory response allows intramammary infections to become persistent in the dry period and cause clinical signs immediately after parturition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Coliform mastitis
  • Dry period
  • Interleukins
  • Tumor necrosis factor-α


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