Communications of Staphylococcus aureus and non-aureus Staphylococcus species from bovine intramammary infections and teat apex colonization

Yasser S. Mahmmod*, Ilka Christine Klaas, Line Svennesen, Karl Pedersen, Hanne Ingmer

*Corresponding author for this work

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The role of non-aureus staphylococci (NAS) in the risk of acquisition of intramammary infections with Staphylococcus aureus is vague and still under debate. The objectives of this study were to (1) investigate the distribution patterns of NAS species from milk and teat skin in dairy herds with automatic milking systems, and (2) examine if the isolated NAS influences the expression of S. aureus virulence factors controlled by the accessory gene regulator (agr) quorum sensing system. In 8 herds, 14 to 20 cows with elevated somatic cell count were randomly selected for teat skin swabbing and aseptic quarter foremilk samples from right hind and left front quarters. Teat skin swabs were collected using the modified wet-dry method and milk samples were taken aseptically for bacterial culture. Colonies from quarters with suspicion of having NAS in milk or teat skin samples (or both) were subjected to MALDI-TOF assay for species identification. To investigate the interaction between S. aureus and NAS, 81 isolates NAS were subjected to a qualitative β-galactosidase reporter plate assay. In total, 373 NAS isolates were identified representing 105 from milk and 268 from teat skin of 284 quarters (= 142 cows). Sixteen different NAS species were identified, 15 species from teat skin and 10 species from milk. The most prevalent NAS species identified from milk were Staphylococcus epidermidis (50%), Staphylococcus haemolyticus (15%), and Staphylococcus chromogenes (11%), accounting for 76%. Meanwhile, the most prevalent NAS species from teat skin were Staphylococcus equorum (43%), S. haemolyticus (16%), and Staphylococcus cohnii (14%), accounting for 73%. Using reporter gene fusions monitoring transcriptional activity of key virulence factors and regulators, we found that out of 81 supernatants of NAS isolates, 77% reduced expression of hla, encoding a-hemolysin, 70% reduced expression of RNAIII, the key effector molecule of agr, and 61% reduced expression of spa encoding protein A of S. aureus, respectively. Our NAS isolates showed 3 main patterns: (1) downregulation effect such as S. chromogenes (milk) and Staphylococcus xylosus (milk and teat), (2) no effect such as Staphylococcus sciuri (teat) and S. vitulinus (teat), and the third pattern (c) variable effect such as S. epidermidis (milk and teat) and S. equorum (milk and teat). The pattern of cross-talk between NAS species and S. aureus virulence genes varied according to the involved NAS species, habitat type, and herd factors. The knowledge of how NAS influences S. aureus virulence factor expression could explain the varying protective effect of NAS on S. aureus intramammary infections.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Bovine mastitis
  • Microbial interaction
  • Non-aureus staphylococci
  • Protective effect
  • Staphylococcus aureus


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