Severity of E. coli mastitis is mainly determined by cow factors

Vet Res. Sep-Oct 2003;34(5):521-64. doi: 10.1051/vetres:2003023.


Intramammary infections of dairy cows with Gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (major cause of mastitis) have received a lot of attention because of their major economic impact on the dairy farm through production losses induced by an increase in somatic cell count. Management strategies, including greater awareness for efficient milking and hygienic measures, have limited the spread of Gram-positive bacteria and resulted in a significant decrease of proportion of S. aureus isolates and subclinical mastitis worldwide. Other organisms such as coliform subspecies and Streptococcus uberis, both environmental bacteria that cause clinical mastitis, have received less attention. Escherichia coli causes inflammation of the mammary gland in dairy cows around parturition and during early lactation with striking local and sometimes severe systemic clinical symptoms. This disease affects many high producing cows in dairy herds and may cause several cases of death per year in the most severe cases. It is well known that bacterial, cow and environmental factors are interdependent and influence mastitis susceptibility. Many studies, executed during the last decade, indicate that the severity of E. coli mastitis is mainly determined by cow factors rather than by E. coli pathogenicity. During E. coli mastitis, the host defense status is a cardinal factor determining the outcome of the disease. Today, we know that the neutrophil is a key factor in the cows' defense against intramammary infection with E. coli. Effective elimination of the pathogen by neutrophils is important for the resolution of infection and the outcome of E. coli mastitis. This review is a compilation of some major findings over the last 15 years concerning mainly host factors that modulate and influence neutrophil function and the mammary inflammatory reaction. The individual chapters address: virulence factors of E. coli strains, how neutrophils kill E. coli, connection between endotoxins, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and nitric oxide, severity classification of E. coli mastitis, lifespan of neutrophils, host factors that influence severity, tissue damage and production loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Dairying / economics
  • Dairying / methods
  • Escherichia coli / immunology
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / classification
  • Escherichia coli Infections / epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / immunology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Lactation / immunology
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Mastitis, Bovine / classification
  • Mastitis, Bovine / epidemiology
  • Mastitis, Bovine / immunology*
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Virulence


  • Cytokines