Biosens4PrecisionMastitis aims to improve health and wealth of milking cows, as well as farm profitability, by developing cutting-edge biosensing technology for the early diagnosis of bovine mastitis.
Mastitis is one of the three main problems affecting dairy cows. It is mainly a bacterial infection, which can manifest clinical or subclinical states, causing inflammation of mammary gland parenchyma and pathological alterations to the udder tissues, provoking swelling and discomfort to the cows. It also induces physical and chemical changes of milk.
The economic burden of bovine mastitis across multiple industries is enormous, specially affecting the dairy industry, caused by the reduction in milk yield and quality, the latter causing the loss of quality premiums, but also due to production losses and treatment costs. On the one hand, when high rates of infection are identified within the herd, culling is recommended. On the other hand, if there are signs that infection can be controlled, antimicrobials are administered, and the isolation of infected cows is enforced. In some cases, antibiotics are given without evidences of infection to entire herds during dry off periods.
As a result of antibiotics overuse, apart from directly affecting animals’ immune response, antibiotic residues can end up in milk, and be released into water and soil, underpinning antimicrobial resistance, a One Health issue that demands prompt and efficient solutions.
Prompt detection and timely intervention is key to reduce the economical, societal and environmental impact of bovine mastitis, but bovine mastitis diagnosis faces some limitations. First, clinical mastitis is often detected by farmers via visual inspection of milk, when they observe changes in milk’s consistency and quality, such as watery milk or the presence of clots in milk. Additionally, farmers can observe that the cow’s udder is swollen, red and painful in response to inflammation. Alternatively, on-farm, somatic cell count is used as an indicator of the likeliness of milk to contain harmful bacteria, and thus can only identify potential cases. In the lab, both cell culture and PCR are used to confirm mastitis and identify the causative pathogen. These techniques though are time-consuming and expensive. More importantly, none of them allows diagnosis at the early stages of the disease, when animals are highly infective and therapies are more effective. Therefore, we aim to deliver new diagnostic solutions to ensure prompt farmer’s intervention to support health and wealth of cows, as well as farm profitability.
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.