Multiple Protein Biomarker Assessment for Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rbST) Abuse in Cattle

S.K.J. Ludwig, N.G.E. Smits, G. van der Veer, M.G.E.G. Bremer, M.W.F. Nielen

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Biomarker profiling, as a rapid screening approach for detection of hormone abuse, requires well selected candidate biomarkers and a thorough in vivo biomarker evaluation as previously done for detection of growth hormone doping in athletes. The bovine equivalent of growth hormone, called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) is (il)legally administered to enhance milk production in dairy cows. In this study, first a generic sample pre-treatment and 4-plex flow cytometric immunoassay (FCIA) were developed for simultaneous measurement of four candidate biomarkers selected from literature: insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), its binding protein 2 (IGFBP2), osteocalcin and endogenously produced antibodies against rbST. Next, bovine serum samples from two extensive controlled rbST animal treatment studies were used for in vivo validation and biomarker evaluation. Finally, advanced statistic tools were tested for the assessment of biomarker combination quality aiming to correctly identify rbST-treated animals. The statistical prediction tool k-nearest neighbours using a combination of the biomarkers osteocalcin and endogenously produced antibodies against rbST proved to be very reliable and correctly predicted 95% of the treated samples starting from the second rbST injection until the end of the treatment period and even thereafter. With the same biomarker combination, only 12% of untreated animals appeared false-positive. This reliability meets the requirements of Commission Decision 2002/657/EC for screening methods in veterinary control. From the results of this multidisciplinary study, it is concluded that the osteocalcin – anti-rbST-antibodies combination represent fit-for-purpose biomarkers for screening of rbST abuse in dairy cattle and can be reliably measured in both the developed 4-plex FCIA as well as in a cost-effective 2-plex microsphere-based binding assay. This screening method can be incorporated in routine veterinary monitoring programmes: in the European Union for detection of rbST abuse and in the control of rbST-free dairy farms in the United States of America and other countries.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere52917
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • human growth-hormone
  • igf binding-proteins
  • gh abuse
  • proteomic approach
  • antibody-formation
  • mass-spectrometry
  • collagen turnover
  • i concentrations
  • veal calves
  • serum


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