Effect of bismuth subnitrate on in vitro growth of major mastitis pathogens

Notcovich, S.; Williamson, N.B.; Flint, S.; Yapura, J.; Schukken, Y.H.; Heuer, C.


The mode of action of bismuth subnitrate in teat sealant formulations as a preventative for intramammary infections during the dry period is unknown. Although previous studies proposed an action mechanism—creating a physical barrier in the teat canal to prevent bacterial invasion—it has not been proven experimentally. We hypothesized that bismuth subnitrate has an inhibitory effect on bacterial growth, in addition to its barrier effect. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of bismuth subnitrate on bacterial growth of major mastitis-causing agents. A strain of Streptococcus uberis (SR115), 2 strains of Staphylococcus aureus (SA3971/59 and SA1), and a strain of Escherichia coli (P17.14291) were tested in vitro for their ability to grow in the presence or absence of bismuth subnitrate. Disk diffusion testing, impedance measurement, and evaluation of bacterial growth in shaking conditions were the methods used to test this hypothesis. A reduction of growth in the presence of bismuth subnitrate occurred for all the strains tested. However, we observed strain and species variations in the extent of growth inhibition. These results suggest that an inhibitory effect on bacterial growth by bismuth subnitrate could partially explain the efficacy of bismuth-based formulations for preventing intramammary infections over the dry period. Further research is required to test the effect of teat sealant formulations on bacterial growth.