Researchers have discovered components of the bovine mastitis-causing bacterium Streptococcus uberis that play a key role in the disease – a discovery that could lead the way to finally developing a vaccine for this endemic disease, which costs UK farmers nearly £200 million per year.

Researchers have discovered components of the bovine mastitis-causing bacterium, Streptococcus uberis that play a key role in the disease. This discovery could lead the way to finally developing a vaccine for this endemic disease, which costs UK farmers alone nearly £200 million per year.
 
Researchers have discovered components of the bovine mastitis-causing bacterium, Streptococcus uberis that play a key role in the diseaseAt present, the treatment of bovine mastitis requires the large scale use of antibiotics. This can cause pain to cows, dramatically reduces milk yield, and may lead to problems of antibiotic resistance down the line. Other than this there is little that can currently be done to prevent the disease, apart from good husbandry.
 
However, James Leigh and his team from the University of Nottingham, (along with colleagues at the Institute for Animal Health and the University of Oxford), have discovered that Streptococcus uberis – a major cause of bovine mastitis – uses the enzyme SrtA to anchor at its surface the proteins required for it to cause disease. They also identified the individual anchored proteins required for the bacterium to withstand the responses within the udder that are trying to eliminate it.
 
Professor Leigh said: “What’s really exciting about this is that we’ve discovered elements of one of the main culprits in bovine mastitis that could actually lead to a vaccine in the future. By identifying which components of the bacteria play a role in causing the disease, we can see exactly where to hit it with a vaccine to stop it ever becoming a problem.”

BBSRC chief executive Douglas KellThe team is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) under a scheme that aims to find sustainable ways to reduce the impact of endemic diseases of farm animals on the economy of UK farming industry and the welfare of animals that are kept for meat, eggs and dairy products. This is the BBSRC Combating Endemic Diseases of Farmed Animals for Sustainability (CEDFAS) initiative.
 
BBSRC chief executive Douglas Kell said: “To feed a growing global population we need to increase food production by 70% by 2050. We have to do this in a sustainable and ethical way and ensure that the UK farming industry remains strong. Endemic diseases of farm animals are extremely costly and cause significant welfare issues. This development is a welcome step towards preventing the suffering and losses associated with bovine mastitis.”
 
The research is due to be published in the September/October edition of Veterinary Research, although an open access copy of the accepted manuscript is available here.

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