KK Reyher, D Haine, IR Dohoo, CW Revie
Major mastitis pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, Streptococcus uberis, Streptococcus dysgalactiae, and the coliforms are usually considered more virulent and damaging to the udder than minor mastitis pathogens such as Corynebacterium bovis and coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS). The current literature contains several studies detailing analyses with conflicting results as to whether intramammary infection (IMI) with the minor pathogens decreases, increases, or has no effect on the risk of a quarter acquiring a new intramammary infection (NIMI) with a major pathogen. To investigate the available scientific evidence regarding the effect of IMI with minor pathogens on the acquisition of NIMI with major pathogens, a systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted. The total extant English- and French-language literature in electronic databases was searched and all publications cited by relevant papers were investigated. Results from 68 studies were extracted from 38 relevant papers. Random-effects models were used to investigate the effects of CNS and C. bovis on acquisition of new IMI with any of the major pathogens, as well as individually for the minor pathogens and Staph. aureus. Significant heterogeneity among studies exists, some of which could be accounted for by using meta-regression. Overall, observational studies showed no effect, whereas challenge studies showed strong and significant protective effects, specifically when major pathogens were introduced into the mammary gland via methods bypassing the teat end. Underlying risk can account for several unmeasured factors, and studies with higher underlying risk found more protective effects of minor pathogens. Larger doses of challenge organisms reduced the protective effect of minor pathogens, and studies with more stringent diagnostic criteria for pathogen IMI identified less protection. Smaller studies (those utilizing fewer than 40 cows) also showed a greater protective effect than larger studies.