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Res Vet Sci. 2011 Dec;91(3):349-57. doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2010.09.006. Epub 2010 Oct 23.

Streptococcus spp. and related bacteria: their identification and their pathogenic potential for chronic mastitis - a molecular approach.

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Clinic for Ruminants, Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, University of Berne, Bremgartenstrasse 109a, P.O. Box 8466, 3001 Berne, Switzerland.


Streptococcus spp. and related bacteria form a large group of organisms which are associated with bovine intramammary Infections (IMI). Some of them are the well-known mastitis pathogens Streptococcus uberis and Streptococcus agalactiae. In addition, there are a considerable number of these gram-positive, catalase-negative cocci (PNC) with unclear mastitic pathogenicity such as Aerococcus viridans which make the conventional diagnostics of PNC difficult. One diagnostic, API 20 Strep (API, Biomérieux) is recommended which, as a phenotypic assay, involves a series of miniaturized biochemical tests. Recently, preference is given to genotypic identification methods. In particular, sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene allows highly reproducible and accurate identification of bacteria and permits discovery of novel, clinically relevant bacteria. As a consequence, the aim of the present study was to compare identification of IMI-associated PNC by the API method as well as by sequencing of their 16S rRNA gene (16S). Furthermore, the correlation of these bacteria to bovine chronic mastitis and their phylogeny was investigated. 102 PNC isolated from single quarter milk samples were identified by API and 16S sequencing. Considering Streptococcus uberis, Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. dysgalactiae and Streptococcus agalactiae, both methods generated fully concordant results. In contrast, a very high disconcordance was observed for most of the other PNC, in particular Enterococcus spp., Aerococcus viridans and the viridans streptococci were shown as apathogenic. Lactococcus garvieae was found to be an opportunistic pathogen causing IMI during late lactation. In addition, PNC isolated from milk were frequently observed together with other bacteria, in particular with Staphylococcus spp. In these cases, the levels of somatic cell counts (SCC) were determined by the specific PNC present in the sample. Considering PNC phylogeny based on 16S sequencing, 3 major clusters were observed. They included all the common mastitis pathogens (cluster I), the Lactococcus spp., Enterococcus spp. and Aerococcus spp. (cluster II) and all the viridans streptococci (cluster III).

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