Estimating test characteristics of somatic cell count to detect Staphylococcus aureus-infected dairy goats using latent class analysis

G. Koop, T. van Werven, Nils Toft, M. Nielen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The aim of this study was to estimate test properties of composite somatic cell count (cSCC) to detect subclinically Staphylococcus aureus-infected dairy goats. Staphylococcus aureus is the most prevalent major pathogen in goats, and responsible for the majority of clinical mastitis cases. Therefore, a diagnostic tool that detects subclinical Staph. aureus infections may be useful in decreasing the number of clinical cases. We collected samples from 384 animals in 4 herds for bacteriological culture and cSCC on 3 occasions in lactation: once in early lactation, once around peak lactation, and once in late lactation. Latent class models were used to estimate test properties of cSCC and bacteriological culture in the absence of a gold standard reference test under the assumption that both tests detect Staph. aureus intramammary infection. Estimates for test properties of cSCC in early lactation at a cut-off value of 1,500 × 103 cells/mL were 0.90 for sensitivity and 0.95 for specificity, making cSCC a useful screening tool for detection of Staph. aureus. An effect of lactation stage was observed, causing an increased sensitivity and decreased specificity in late lactation. The sensitivity of bacteriological culture was estimated to be very low in the latent class models and the models suggested that the true prevalence of Staph. aureus in dairy goat herds is much higher than what is commonly reported based on bacteriological culture. This implies that intramammary infection by Staph. aureus may be an underestimated problem in dairy goat herds, and that cSCC can be used to diagnose infected animals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)2902-2911
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • somatic cell count
  • test characteristic
  • latent class
  • dairy goat


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