The bacterial flora in the teat duct of ewes can protect against and can cause mastitis
We studied the possible effects of bacterial populations within the teat duct, in the pathogenesis of ovine mastitis. In experiment I, 32 ewes were allocated into group A (ewes from which we isolated (+++ growth) coagulase-negative staphylococci), B (ewes from whose duct we isolated (+ growth) coagulase-negative staphylococci) or C (ewes from which we isolated Bacillus spp.) and subdivided into A1, B1, C1 (n = 4; challenged by deposition of 1.250 cfu of Mannheimia haemolytica into the teat duct) or A2, B2, C2 (n = 4; used as uninoculated controls); group D (n = 8) contained ewes with no bacteria in their teat ducts and were challenged as above. There were less bacteriological isolations of flora (P = 0.018) and challenge (P < 0.05) organisms from A1 than from A2 and D ewes; the severity of pathological findings in A1 (summed up score: 27) ewes was smaller than in D (summed up score: 36) ewes (P = 0.038). No such findings were evident with B1 or C1 ewes (P > 0.4). In experiment II, ewes (groups E and F, n = 6) from whose duct we isolated coagulase-negative staphylococci (+ growth) were used; in group G (n = 6) ewes with no bacteria in their teat ducts were included. Teat chapping was applied in E and G ewes. All E ewes developed acute clinical mastitis within 24 h after teat chapping, although we had carried out no challenge; there were more bacteriological isolations of flora organisms from E than from F and G ewes (P < 0.001); the severity of pathological findings in E (score: 28) was greater than in F (score: 3) or G (score: 14) ewes. In experiment III, eight ewes with no bacteria in their teat ducts were allocated into group H or I (n = 4) and challenged into the teat (group H) or into the gland (group I) with 10 6 cfu of a Staphylococcus simulans recovered from the teat duct of a group E ewe. Group H ewes developed transiently clinical followed by subclinical mastitis (based on bacteriological and cytological evidence), whilst group I ewes developed severe clinical disease. We conclude that staphylococcal flora present in high numbers within the teat duct of ewes can afford some protection against invading microorganisms. However with impeded defence mechanisms of the teat, the same flora may invade the mammary parenchyma and cause clinical mastitis. © INRA, EDP Sciences, 2007.