Presence of subepithelial lymphoid nodules in the teat of ewes
A total of 87 clinically healthy ovine teats were examined bacteriologically (by scraping the mucosa) and histologically. Teats examined were those of lactating mammary glands with no bacteria isolated (n = 23); of mammary glands after cessation of lactation with no bacteria isolated (n = 25); of lactating mammary glands with bacteria isolated (n = 22); and of mammary glands after cessation of lactation with bacteria isolated (n = 17). The salient histological feature was subepithelial leucocytic infiltration. In teat cisterns, lymphocytes were the predominant cell type and in teat ducts, lymphocytes and neutrophils were seen in equal proportions. Subepithelial lymphoid nodules, some with germinal centres, were detected in 43 (49%) teats. The majority of lymphoid nodules was observed at the border between teat duct and teat cistern. Presence of bacteria was significantly associated with the presence of leucocytic activity (P < 0.001) and with the presence of lymphoid nodules (P = 0.032). We conclude that the presence of induced subepithelial lymphoid tissue at the border between teat duct and teat cistern appears to be important in protecting the mammary gland during the early stages of bacterial invasion. The findings call for further investigations into the lymphoid structures of the teat; these should elucidate the role and development of mammary mucosa-associated lymphoid tissues and may lead to strategies for enhancing non-specific defence mechanisms of the mammary gland.