Molecular epidemiology of Streptococcus uberis intramammary infections: Persistent and transient patterns of infection in a dairy herd

Leelahapongsathon, K.; Schukken, Y.H.; Srithanasuwan, A.; Suriyasathaporn, W.


A longitudinal observational study was carried out to explore transmission dynamics and duration of infection of Streptococcus uberis. Quarter milk samples were collected aseptically for bacterial culture from all lactating cows once a month over a 10-mo period. Molecular typing of S. uberis mastitis was performed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Molecular typing was used to determine episodes of S. uberis intramammary infection (IMI). Comparisons of spontaneous cure among PFGE types were performed using Fisher's exact chi-squared tests. Differences of duration among PFGE types and between periods of lactation were tested with Kaplan-Meier survival curves and Cox's proportional hazard model. Among a total of 851 quarter samples, 145 milk samples were detected with S. uberis presence. Based on results of PFGE, 66 episodes of S. uberis IMI were determined. From the 8 main PFGE types (A–H), PFGE type D, E, F1, F2, G, and H had only one episode indicating no evidence for transmission, subsequently defined as environmental S. uberis strains. In contrast, PFGE types A1, A2, B, C1, and C2 had at least 2 infection episodes caused by the same strain in different quarters or cows, indicating that these strains would be able to transmit to other quarters or cows. These strains were defined as contagious strains. The majority of IMI were attributable to PFGE type A1 (55%), B (17%), and A2 (11%). Spontaneous cures were observed in 35 IMI episodes. Of these 35 IMI cures, 91.4% were in IMI with duration of infection of 1 mo, n = 25, and 2 mo, n = 6. The remaining 8.6% was in IMI with duration of infection >2 mo, n = 4. Based on results from Cox's proportional hazard model, environmental S. uberis episodes were likely to have spontaneous cure with shorter duration compared with contagious S. uberis with PFGE type B (hazard ratio = 8.4). Quarters infected with S. uberis strain PFGE type A in early lactation were more likely to persist compared with those infected in late lactation (hazard ratio = 7.57). In conclusion, the majority of S. uberis IMI in this herd were transient and showed spontaneous cure. In addition to environmental S. uberis IMI, at least 3 types of contagious IMI S. uberis can be defined as (1) short duration of IMI and likely to have spontaneous cure, (2) long duration and unlikely to have spontaneous cure, and (3) wide range of duration of IMI either transient or persistent where spontaneous cure may occur depending on host defense capacity.