story to find out more.
Microbiologist Doug Bannerman (left) and dairy
scientist Max Paape examine milk somatic cell counts and bacterial growth from
cows given either antibiotics or Poly-x at the end of lactation (dry off).
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New Anti-Mastitis Weapon on Tap for Dairy Cows
By Jan Suszkiw
February 13, 2006
Injecting a sugar into cows' udders
to mobilize an immune system response may give producers an alternative to
antibiotics for fighting mastitis.
In trials at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS)
Functional Genomics Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., scientists
Bannerman showed that injecting cows with the yeast sugar Poly-x reduced
mastitis infection at one-twelfth the cost of antibiotics.
Their patent-pending approach is based on prior studies at the lab showing
that increasing milk's white blood cell count will prevent infection by
mastitis-causing bacteria. When injected into non-lactating dairy cows, Poly-x
functions as a kind of bugle call that mobilizes the cells to attack mastitis
During the trials, the scientists injected 40 non-milking Holstein cows with
Poly-x and 40 with antibiotics. After the cows began lactating again, the
scientists checked the animals for signs of mastitis infection. Those with
Poly-x had a net gain of 5 new infections compared to 16 for antibiotic-treated
cows, reports Paape, who, along with Bannerman, will publish the results.
ARS has applied for patent protection on the Poly-x treatment, and is
seeking a commercial partner that can ready it for marketing to conventional
and organic dairy producers.
Mastitis is an inflammation of cows' mammary glands that costs the U.S.
dairy industry approximately $2 billion annually in both animal and
dairy-production losses. Today's control programs include diagnostic testing,
herd separation, animal culling, teat dips and antibiotic treatment. The
latter, however, can be costly to use as well controversial because of
environmental contamination and other concerns.
Paape and Bannerman see several advantages to using Poly-x as a natural
alternative--the lack of residues being one. Expense is another: A tube of
antibiotic costs about $2.50, compared to 20 cents for a Poly-x treatment.
more about the research in the February issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.