Persistence and transmission of intramammary pathogens causing acute mastitis: the role of chronic intramammary abscesses

Project lead: Professor Laura Green

Project contacts:

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland typically caused by bacterial infection. It is an endemic disease in the UK, affecting up to 7% of ewes each year. Ewe health is affected by pain, loss of udder function, premature culling and sudden death, while lamb growth rates are affected by the reduction in milk yield. Mastitis has farm sustainability as well as welfare and health implications, with costs to the UK Texel sheep industry alone estimated in excess of £120 million/annum.

Transmission of bacteria causing intramammary infections can be from ewe to ewe or from the environment, and individual strains can persist within a flock for a number of years. Within flock transmission routes have not yet been fully characterised and understanding these will be key to developing effective managements to control mastitis.

The aim of this project is to improve the management of mastitis to reduce the economic impact of the disease and so improve the sustainability of sheep farming. Better management of mastitis will increase ewe longevity by improved health and welfare.

This project is being conducted in conjunction with the University of Warwick.

Research objectives

  • Identify bacterial strains in milk samples collected from a longitudinal study to investigate the patterns of bacteria over time, to identify those associated with disease occurrence and to investigate their survival and persistence in healthy udders.
  • Investigate the role of intramammary masses in transmission of mastitis-causing pathogens in sheep flocks.

Research team

Partner organisations and sponsors

  • BBSRC MIBTP CASE Studentship
  • Agriculture Horticultural Development Board (AHDB)
  • Quality Milk Management Services Ltd. (QMMS)

Further details

Kate Bamford, Warwick University