Channel-based biosensors to support a precision agriculture approach for improved bovine mastitis management
Bovine mastitis affects animal health and welfare, reducing milk yields and quality. When high rates of infection are detected within the herd, culling is recommended. If signs indicate infection can be controlled, antimicrobials are administered, and isolation of infected cows is enforced. Indeed, antibiotics are often given without mastitis confirmation, even to entire herds during drying off periods. Antibiotic residues can end up in milk, and be released into water and soil, underpinning antibiotic resistance.
Late and poor intervention is mostly due to significant limitations in the diagnosis of mastitis. On-farm, somatic cell count indicates the likeliness of milk to contain harmful bacteria. In the lab, cell culture and PCR identify bacterial pathogens, but they are time-consuming and costly. Moreover, none of these methods reports infection at the early stages of disease when animals are highly infective, and therapies are most effective.
Biosens4PrecisionMastitis aims to deliver new diagnostic tools to detect mastitis at the early stages of the disease, by targeting biomarkers of the early immune response of cows: miRNAs, cytokines and antimicrobial peptides. This new concept is expected to confirm infection, rather than just exposure, and report disease status and aetiology. To underpin the reliability of the method, the project will identify distinct biomarker signatures in milk collected from a herd in a natural setting, instead of using animal models, to avoid underestimating potential effects acquired through natural patterns of pathogen exposure. Our solution will combine the identified biomarker signatures with biosensing technology based on advanced materials to perform non-invasive and stress-free “milk biopsies” on-site, in near-to-real time, at a low cost and by harnessing readily available equipment. These tools will support constant animal surveillance to identify actionable cases and guide farmer’s intervention, providing valuable advantage to the European dairy industry.
The project is implemented under ERA-NET ICRAD (International coordination of research on infectious diseases) thanks to co-financing of 4 funding agencies: Spanish State Research Agency, Hungarian National Food Chain Safety Office, Polish National Centre for Research and Development and Latvian State Education Development Agency.