Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2013 Apr 25;8(4):e61959.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061959. Print 2013.

Bacterial Community Profiling of Milk Samples as a Means to Understand Culture-Negative Bovine Clinical Mastitis

Free PMC article

Bacterial Community Profiling of Milk Samples as a Means to Understand Culture-Negative Bovine Clinical Mastitis

Joanna S Kuehn et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


Inflammation and infection of bovine mammary glands, commonly known as mastitis, imposes significant losses each year in the dairy industry worldwide. While several different bacterial species have been identified as causative agents of mastitis, many clinical mastitis cases remain culture negative, even after enrichment for bacterial growth. To understand the basis for this increasingly common phenomenon, the composition of bacterial communities from milk samples was analyzed using culture independent pyrosequencing of amplicons of 16S ribosomal RNA genes (16S rDNA). Comparisons were made of the microbial community composition of culture negative milk samples from mastitic quarters with that of non-mastitic quarters from the same animals. Genomic DNA from culture-negative clinical and healthy quarter sample pairs was isolated, and amplicon libraries were prepared using indexed primers specific to the V1-V2 region of bacterial 16S rRNA genes and sequenced using the Roche 454 GS FLX with titanium chemistry. Evaluation of the taxonomic composition of these samples revealed significant differences in the microbiota in milk from mastitic and healthy quarters. Statistical analysis identified seven bacterial genera that may be mainly responsible for the observed microbial community differences between mastitic and healthy quarters. Collectively, these results provide evidence that cases of culture negative mastitis can be associated with bacterial species that may be present below culture detection thresholds used here. The application of culture-independent bacterial community profiling represents a powerful approach to understand long-standing questions in animal health and disease.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors declare that Boehringer-Mannheim-Vetmedica (BIV) provided an unrestricted research fellowship for one of the authors (JSK). In this study, however, no BIV products were used or developed, no patents will be filed, and none of the authors are BIV employees, board members or consultants. This does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Taxonomic classifications for samples utilizing the RDP database.
The normalized abundances of the top 10 most abundant bacterial genera determined using a RDP confidence threshold of 0.7 are shown. Sample pairs are labeled by animal (1–10) and clinical status as A (culture-negative clinical) or B (healthy), and the LSCC samples are labeled 1 and 2. Sample 1A (clinical) contained a known mastitis pathogen (Mycoplasma spp.) that was not detected in the healthy quarter sample 1B.
Figure 2
Figure 2. UniFrac PCoA images including non-amplified control.
These images were captured from 3D UniFrac PCoA to illustrate differences in the microbiota among the different milk samples. The following UniFrac PCoA analyses were based on the OTU data, with only the first three principal coordinates shown. A) unweighted UniFrac with PC1 = 13.97%, PC2 = 7.98%, and PC3 = 5.90% (p = 0.083). B) weighted, normalized UniFrac with PC1 = 33.1%, PC2 = 26.57%, and PC3 = 7.73% (p = 0.001). C) weighted, non-normalized UniFrac with PC1 = 32.63%, PC2 = 27.19%, and PC3 = 9.32% (p = 0.001). D) weighted, non-normalized UniFrac, 1A excluded, with PC1 = 41.15%, PC2 = 13.77%, and PC3 = 8.41% (p = 0.001). The clustering observed between the culture negative clinical mastitis (red) and healthy (yellow) quarter milk samples indicates differences in the microbial compositions of these samples. The two LSCC samples (blue) cluster among other healthy samples. One sample not subjected to whole genome amplification (blue, 1A no GenomiPhi V2 amplification treatment) clusters tightly with the same sample subjected to whole genome amplification treatment (1A). In panels A–C the 1A clinical samples contribute to the greatest degree of observed dissimilarity likely due to its composition of predominantly Mycoplasma spp., as observed during taxonomic analysis.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Bray-Curtis dissimilarity based non-metric multidimensional scaling.
Using Bray-Curtis dissimilarity values, all samples, excluding 1A, were plotted using NMDS models. A) Healthy quarter and LSCC samples are observed to be more dissimilar to mastitis samples than each other with the exceptions of 4B and 5A. B) Samples plotted based on only the seven genera (see text) identified by univariate analysis. Using only these genera results in the similar delineation of clinical and non-clinical samples.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 30 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Cha E, Bar D, Hertl JA, Tauer LW, Bennett G, et al. (2011) The cost and management of different types of clinical mastitis in dairy cows estimated by dynamic programming. J Dairy Sci 94: 4476–4487. - PubMed
    1. Jones G, Bailey T (2009) Understanding the basics of mastitis. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
    1. Contreras GA, Rodriguez JM (2011) Mastitis: comparative etiology and epidemiology. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia 16: 339–356. - PubMed
    1. Makovec JA, Ruegg PL (2003) Results of milk samples submitted for microbiological examination in Wisconsin from 1994 to 2001. J Dairy Sci 86: 3466–3472. - PubMed
    1. Wang Q, Garrity GM, Tiedje JM, Cole JR (2007) Naive Bayesian classifier for rapid assignment of rRNA sequences into the new bacterial taxonomy. Appl Environ Microbiol 73: 5261–5267. - PMC - PubMed

Publication types