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Journal of Dairy Science
Volume 105 (3), 2022, Pages 2558-2571

Suitability of milk lactate dehydrogenase and serum albumin for pathogen-specific mastitis detection in automatic milking systems

M. Khatun1,2,3, P.C. Thomson1, S.C. García1, R.M. Bruckmaier3

School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney Institute of Agriculture, The University of Sydney, Camden 2570, New South Wales, Australia.


In response to intramammary infection (IMI), blood-derived leukocytes are transferred into milk, which can be measured as an increase of somatic cell count (SCC). Additionally, pathogen-dependent IgG increases in milk following infection. The IgG transfer into milk is associated with the opening of the blood-milk barrier, which is much more pronounced during gram-negative than gram-positive IMI. Thus, milk IgG concentration may help to predict the pathogen type causing IMI. Likewise, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and serum albumin (SA) cross the blood-milk barrier with IgG if its integrity is reduced. Because exact IgG analysis is complicated and difficult to automate, LDH activity and SA concentration aid as markers to predict the IgG transfer into milk in automatic milking systems (AMS). This study was conducted to test the hypothesis that LDH and SA in milk correlate with the IgG transfer, and in combination with SCC these factors allow the differentiation between gram-positive and gram-negative IMI or even more precisely the infection-causing pathogen. Further, the expression of these parameters in foremilk before (BME) and after (AME) milk ejection was tested. In the AMS, quarter milk samples (n = 686) from 48 Holstein-Friesian cows were collected manually BME and AME, followed by an aseptic sample for bacteriological culture. Mixed models were used to (1) predict the concentration of IgG transmitted from blood into milk based on LDH and SA; (2) use principal component analysis to evaluate joint patterns of SCC (cells/mL), IgG (mg/mL), LDH (U/L), and SA (mg/mL) and use the principal component scores to compare gram-positive, gram-negative, and control IMI types and BME versus AME samples; and (3) predict gram-positive and gram-negative IMI by inclusion of combined SCC-LDH and SCC-SA as predictors in the model. Overall, the SA and LDH had similar ability to predict IgG transmission from blood into milk. Comparing the areas under the curve (AUC) of the receiver operator characteristic curves, the SCC-LDH versus SCC-SA had lower gram-positive (AUC = 0.984 vs. 0.986) but similar gram-negative (AUC = 0.995 vs. 0.998) IMI prediction ability. The SCC, IgG, LDH, and SA were greater in gram-negative than in gram-positive IMI (BME and AME) in early lactation. All measured factors had higher values in milk samples taken BME than AME. In conclusion, LDH and SA could be used as replacement markers to indicate the presence of IgG transfer from blood into milk; in combination with SCC, both SA and LDH are suitable for differentiating IMI type, and BME is better for mastitis detection in AMS.

Keywords: mastitis, lactate dehydrogenase, IgG, serum albumin, milk ejection.

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