U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Case report: characterization of a persistent, treatment-resistant, novel Staphylococcus aureus infection causing chronic mastitis in a Holstein dairy cow

Ellie J. Putz, Mitchell V. Palmer, Hao Ma, Eduardo Casas, Timothy A. Reinhardt, John D. Lippolis
BMC veterinary research 2020 v.16 no.1 pp. 336
Gram-positive bacteria, Holstein, Staphylococcus aureus, abscess, antibiotics, calving, case studies, connective tissues, dairy cows, epithelium, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, granuloma, infection, lactation, mastitis, mechanics, milk, myeloperoxidase, necropsy, neutrophils, signs and symptoms (animals and humans), somatic cell count, traps, veterinary medicine
BACKGROUND: Mastitis is the most common health concern plaguing the modern dairy cow and costs dairy producers estimates of two billion dollars annually. Staphylococcus aureus infections are prevalent, displaying varied disease presentation and markedly low cure rates. Neutrophils are considered the first line of defense against mastitis causing bacteria and are frequently targeted in the development of treatment and prevention technologies. We describe a case of naturally occurring, chronic mastitis in a Holstein cow (1428), caused by a novel strain of S. aureus that was not able to be cleared by antibiotic treatment. CASE PRESENTATION: The infection was identified in a single quarter, 2 months into the cow’s first lactation. The infection persisted for the following 20 months, including through dry off, and a second calving and lactation. This case of mastitis was associated with a consistently high somatic cell count, however presented with no other clinical signs. This cow was unsuccessfully treated with antibiotics commonly used to treat mastitis, consisting of two rounds of treatment during lactation and an additional round at the beginning of dry off. The chronic infection was also unchanged through an experimental mid-lactation treatment with pegylated granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (PEG-gCSF) and an additional periparturient treatment with PEG-gCSF. We isolated milk neutrophils from 1428 and compared them to two cows challenged with experimental S. aureus, strain Newbould 305. Neutrophils from 1428’s milk had higher surface expression of myeloperoxidase compared to experimental Newbould challenged animals, as well as increased presence of Neutrophil Extracellular Traps. This suggests a heightened activation state of neutrophils sourced from 1428’s naturally occurring infection. Upon postmortem examination, the affected quarter revealed multifocal abscesses separated by fibrous connective tissues. Abscesses were most common in the gland cistern and collecting duct region. Microscopically, the inflammatory reaction was pyogranulomatous to granulomatous and consistent with botryomycosis. Colonies of Gram-positive cocci were found within the eosinophilic matrix of the Splendore-Hoeppli reaction within granulomas and intracellularly within the acinar epithelium. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, we describe a unique case of chronic mastitis, the characterization of which provides valuable insight into the mechanics of S. aureus treatment resistance and immune escape.