Differences between Staphylococcus aureus lineages isolated from ovine and caprine mastitis but not between isolates from clinical or subclinical mastitis

J Hoekstra, V P M G Rutten, M van den Hout, M P Spaninks, Lindert Benedictus, G Koop

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Abstract / Description of output

Staphylococcus aureus is an important mastitis pathogen, causing both clinical mastitis (CM) and subclinical mastitis (SCM) in small ruminants. In general, CM has a low incidence in sheep and goats but can be very severe and costly. In contrast, subclinical mastitis (SCM) is common but is associated with less cost. For both sheep and goats, S. aureus is the main cause of CM and is associated with SCM cases with a high SCC. Recently, specific lineages of S. aureus have been identified that are associated with CM rather than SCM in dairy cows. It is unknown whether specific S. aureus lineages are associated with CM in goats and sheep. The aim of this study was to compare the clonal complex (CC), staphylococcal protein A (spa) type, leukocidin lukM-lukF' presence, and potential to produce LukMF' in vitro between CM and SCM S. aureus mastitis isolates obtained from sheep and goats. Differences between isolates from different host species were also compared. Ovine (CM, n = 12; SCM, n = 29) and caprine (CM, n = 14; SCM, n = 30) isolates were obtained from 8 sheep flocks and 8 goat herds in the Netherlands. Overall, the isolates belonged to CC133 (85%), CC398 (7%), CC425 (5%), and CC45 (2%). Seventeen spa types were found, including 6 novel types; the predominant types were t2678 (34%), t544 (18%), and t3583 (18%). Although CC133 was dominant among both sheep and goat isolates, spa type CC133/t2678 was associated with ovine isolates, whereas CC133/t544 and CC133/t3583 were found mostly in goats. The presence of lukM-lukF' among the S. aureus isolates was high (87%), especially in CC133 (96%) and CC425 (100%), but the genes were absent in CC45 and CC398. In vitro-cultured lukM-lukF'-positive isolates produced LukM (71 out of 74 positive isolates tested) in the range of 0.4 to 5.0 µg/mL. Interestingly, the goat-associated lineages CC133/t544 and CC133/t3583 produced more LukM in vitro than the sheep-associated CC133/t2678. We found no difference in LukMF' production potential between CM and SCM isolates. In sheep as well as in goats, no association was found between genotype and CM or SCM, demonstrating that the same lineages of S. aureus are responsible for both CM and SCM. These results suggest that subclinically infected animals in a herd or flock likely act as the reservoir of S. aureus causing CM. This highlights the importance of early identification and control of SCM and suggests that controlling SCM within a herd is an effective intervention to prevent CM in small ruminants.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Early online date10 Apr 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Apr 2019


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