|FECAL COLIFORM (E. coli) AND MASTITIS ON THE FARM
Jim Bynum 7/17/07
When EPA decided to create toxic and hazardous sludge dumps out of our farmland,
some smart young Ph.D, had to figure how to fool not only farmers but other smart young
Ph.D's. EPA's Office of Water already used a coliform test to indicate fecal/sewage
contamination of drinking water. The smart young Ph.D thought he could sell the idea
that fecal coliform was an indicator that pathogenic disease organisms might be in fecal
sewage sludge. Not only that, he thought they might accept that 1,000 most probable
number (mpn) of E. coli per gram might indicate the lack of pathogens in Class A sludge
or even that 2,000.000 mpn of E. coli per gram might only indicate the lack of pathogens
in Class B sludge and it could be sold or given a way, if EPA just told people the bacteria
was a coliform that didn't actually cause diseases. The working theory is that coliforms
are environmental disease organisms that might kill you, but they are not pathogens.
This little sales pitch has worked for much longer than it should have. Humm, might he be
a Cornell graduate?
When Cornell scientists Ellen Z. Harrison, Murray B. McBride and David R. Bouldin
published their work "A Case for Caution" Land application of sewage sludges: an
appraisal of the US regulations in 1999, the smart young Ph.D's at EPA tried to get them
fired. And they didn't even address the coliform issue. Coliform: relating to,
resembling, or being E. coli. Escherichia coli (E. coli), a thermotolerant rod-shaped
member of the coliform group, can be distinguished from most other coliforms by its
ability to ferment lactose at 44°C, and by its growth and colour reaction on certain types
of culture media.
Where have all the scientists gone?
Lets blame it on the farmers, after all their cattle and dairy herds are infected with E.
coli, and they send them to slaughter when they get sick. How can anyone argue
otherwise. Well,remember the magic, these coliform bacterial organisms do no harm to
humans? There are no victims.
However, veterinarians know better. They just have a small problem. Land grant colleges
and Universities have a problem when they are dealing with science that conflicts with a
government agency's stated position such as - coliform do not cause disease when
coliform contaminated sludge and reclaimed water is used on grazing farmland. However,
some scientist figure the government agency can't complain when Veterinarian medicine
uses the word coliform and defines the bacterial organisms causing so much economic
damage to farmers and disease across the nation.
For years, streptococci were the most prevalent bacteriological cause of
mastitis until states started promoting colifom contamined sludge for farmland.
Cornell - New York
Mastitis is inflammation of the mammary gland as a result of invasion through the teat
canal by disease causing organisms. There are two categories of mastitis--contagious
and environmental. The contagious type of mastitis is usually passed from cow to cow
typically in the milking parlor, or through handling. Environmental mastitis is broken down
into two groups as well: streptococcal and coliform. The group of coliforms that commonly
cause mastitis includes E. coli, Klebsiella, and Enterobacter.
Following the entrance of coliform bacteria the cow may have sudden onset of fever, loss
of appetite, diarrhea, shivering and may go down. This is due to the poisons produced by
the bacteria entering the cows blood and lymph systems. Later the infected quarter may
swell and be warm and painful. The discharge may be watery or bloody or there may be
large thick clots. Most cows with coliform mastitis that survive will have little residual
damage but a few become chronic or lose the affected quarter and some
are culled due to continued poor health.
Coliform mastitis can be treated with antibiotics, but this can release endotoxins and can
cause milk withdrawal. Untreated mastitis can cause a quarter of the udder to drop in, or
cease milk production, and lower the immune response in the animal leaving it open to
The invasion of one or more quarters of a cows udder by bacteria of the type called
coliforms can produce life threatening illness. These bacteria, E. coli, Klebsiella,
Enterobacter and Citrobacter may live in the barn
environment in bedding,
UC Davis - California
UC Davis Veterinary fact sheet will tell you coliform infected cattle may have to
be marketed early or they may die. But the fact sheet doesn't explain what a
coliform is or why its not a pathogen.
Coliform mastitis has become the predominate form of severe clinical mastitis in dairy
herds that routinely maintain control of contagious mastitis. Despite the use of J-5 type
vaccines and attention to cow comfort and bedding sanitation, coliform mastitis continues
to reduce milk production, increase the risk of early marketing and kill infected cows.
The purpose of this article is to suggest some new strategies for treatment of coliform
mastitis based on recent field research from the College of Veterinary Medicine at
Colorado State University.
The reason for using this classification system is that as the severity classification moves
from mild to moderate to severe, the likelihood of finding coliform bacteria in the blood
increases. Of the cows in their study, 32% had bacteria in their blood streams. Cows
classified as severe were found to have bacteria in the blood 48% of the cases compared
to 23% classified as moderate. When compared to non-coliform infected cows, all cows
with signs of coliform mastitis were more likely to have bacteria in the blood. In most
cases, the same coliform bacteria were found in the milk and blood of cows with
suspected coliform mastitis. In addition, cows classified as severe were more likely to die
from the mastitis infection.
Coliform mastitis is one of the most common forms of environmental mastitis in dairy
cows. The bacteria that can cause coliform mastitis - primarily Escherichia coli, but also
various species of Klebsiella and Enterobacter - are common in dairy operations. This is
because cows carry these bacteria in the intestinal tract and pass them in their manure,
making it easy to contaminate the environment.
April, 1998 Virginia
For years, streptococci were the most prevalent bacteriological cause of mastitis. Prior to
the widespread use of antibiotics, especially dry cow therapy, and dipping teats in
sanitizing solution, Streptococcus agalactiae was the major cause of mastitis. This
organism is contagious because it lives only in the udder and is transmitted directly from
cow to cow, often through use of a common cloth or sponge for washing teats and
udders. However, this organism has been eradicated from many dairy herds. Probably
the most important change in mastitis epidemiology over the past decade has been the
rise in importance of environmental pathogens, primarily coliforms and streptococci
other than agalactiae. Today, many well-managed farms that have successfully
controlled contagious mastitis, including Staphylococcus aureus, and consistently
produce milk with somatic cell counts (SCC) below 300,000 have problems with increased
clinical mastitis. To illustrate the magnitude of these infections, in 20,478 cows from 274
herds in the Netherlands with SCC below 400,000 (the regulatory limit in Europe), 28.5%
of the cows had clinical mastitis during a year and a half period (41 cases per 100 cows
per year). Of these, 42% were caused by environmental pathogens which include the
"other" streptococci, and now are referred to as environmental streptococci (primarily
Streptococcus uberis and Streptococcus dysgalactiae but also enterobacter) and
coliforms (especially Escherichia coli and Klebsiella species) (Lam et al., 1997)1.
In a subsequent study involving seven herds with bulk tank SCC below 150,000, 610
cows were cultured every 5-6 weeks, again at dry off and calving, and when clinical
mastitis developed. Environmental pathogens comprised 46% of total infections and most
of these showed clinical signs (94% of E. coli and 64% of environmental streptococci).
Environmental pathogens are often responsible for most clinical cases of mastitis but only
a few become chronic. Staphylococcus aureus was responsible for most of 290 recurrent
October 2000 Virginia
The Incidence and Significance of New Coliform Mastitis Infections During the
Dry Period" was recently published in the Journal of Dairy Science by scientists from the
University of Bristol in England. Duplicate aseptic milk samples were collected at drying
off, prior to and after calving from each quarter of 629 cows from 6 commercial dairy
herds. All six herds had low bulk tank somatic cell counts with a 3-month geometric mean
of 250,000. Although E. coli made up 80% of the infections (5.3% of quarters after
calving), small numbers of Enterobacter (0.32), Klebsiella (0.28), Serratia (0.12), Proteus
(0.52), Citrobacter (0.20), and Morganella (0.08) also were found. A rise in the incidence
of mastitis infection occurred between drying off and calving, going from 2.7% of quarters
to 7.8%. New E. coli infections were detected in 8.6% of quarters. Of the mastitis that
developed during the first 100 days of lactation, most developed within 30 days in
quarters that became infected during the dry period . All cows had been dry treated.
More infections occurred during the summer months (1997 which was "comparatively
wet"). "Significant numbers of intramammary enterobacterial infections are acquired
during the dry period and quarters that acquire an infection are more likely to develop
mastitis in the subsequent lactation." The authors also concluded that environmental
management during the dry period may greatly impact the incidence of enterobacterial
mastitis (again 80% was E. coli) in the subsequent lactation. Many herds have had
problems with mastitis or high somatic cell counts this summer. These may have been
caused by E. coli (a coliform).
July 1997 Utah
Coliform mastitis is usually considered as an acute disease although some milder forms
and even chronic cases do occur. It is caused by the bacterial organism Escherichia coli,
hence the name, coliform. Other, related organisms, Enterobacter aerogenes and
Klebsiella pneumoniae, are also often called “coliforms.” All of these are classed as
“environmental” agents because they grow freely and commonly in the cows habitat and
infect the udder as opportunists.
Multiple factors are involved in allowing development of this disease; it is not simply a
matter of “bacteria present equals disease.” The coliform organisms cannot be
eradicated from the cow’s environment nor can all cases of coliform mastitis be
prevented. But it can be controlled and the incidence reduced.
2006. England and Wales
Dairy cattle with clinical mastitis caused by Escherichia coli exhibit a wide range of
disease severity, from mild, with only local inflammatory changes of the mammary gland,
to severe, with significant systemic derangement. The present study was designed to
examine the relationship between serotype and virulence genes of E. coli mastitis
isolates, different levels of systemic disease severity, and farm from which the E. coli
strain was obtained. One hundred twenty-three E. coli milk isolates were obtained from
cows with clinical mastitis of varying systemic disease severity from 6 different farms. No
predominant serotype was identified by farm or by systemic disease severity; however,
the most frequent serotype, O158:NM (n = 3), was isolated from cows in the moderate
severity group. Virulence genes evaluated were identified infrequently and were not
associated with systemic disease severity. Evaluation of genetic similarity showed no
clustering assigned by farm or mastitis severity based on systemic disease signs. We
concluded that a high degree of genotypic variability is characteristic of E. coli strains
causing clinical mastitis within and between different farms and systemic severity groups,
and that specific cow factors probably play a more important role in determining systemic
31 March 2003 -- Denmark
Coliform mastitis is an acute and potentially lethal type of mastitis in bovine
practice. The therapeutical approach to acute coliform mastitis is frequently discussed.
While is generally accepted that supportive therapy, such as fluid therapy, is necessary,
the administration of antibiotics is questionned. This is due to mainly two reasons. Firstly,
the clinical ill effects observed in coliform mastitis are often thought to be due to the
effect of the accompanying endotoxicosis, which would not be influenced positively by
the killing of the non-invasive E. coli. Secondly, antibiotics effective against E. coli, are
potent, broadspectered antibiotics, with heavy impact on the micro-ecology. The
unnecessary use of such antibiotics would subsequently contribute to the development of