The outcome of E. coli mastitis in cows ranges from mild to severe in individual animals. This study explored the hypothesis that milk from individual cows differs in its growth medium properties for E. coli, and whether possible variation could be related to specific milk constituents. To mimic the early phase of intramammary E. coli infection, a low inoculum size and a short incubation period were used. Cell-reduced, cell- and fat-free (skim) and cell- and fat-free and protein-reduced (whey) fractions were prepared from whole milk samples (n=18). Ten ml of whole milk, milk fractions and brain heart infusion broth (BHI) were inoculated with approximately 100 cfu E. coli. After 6 h of incubation, bacterial counts were assessed by dilution plating in triplicate. Bacterial counts in whole milk differed up to a 100-fold between cows, which was not associated with SCC. Bacterial counts were significantly higher in whey fractions than in whole milk, cell-reduced and skim fractions and variation in whey was smaller, indicating that the acid-precipitable protein fraction contains the milk constituents of major relevance for inhibition of and variation in bacterial growth. The presence of fat and cells added to bacterial growth inhibition to a lesser extent. In conclusion, in vitro growth of E. coli in milk differs substantially between individual cows within an incubation period comparable with the early phase of intramammary infection. This suggests that the growth medium properties of milk could be of importance in the pathogenesis of E. coli mastitis and subsequent outcome of disease.
- somatic-cell counts
- clinical mastitis