Unit of Food Microbiology, Institute of Food Safety, Food Technology and Veterinary Public Health, Department of Farm Animal and Public Health in Veterinary Medicine, University of Veterinary Medicine, 1210 Vienna, Austria. Electronic address: [Email]
Streptococcus uberis, a major mastitis pathogen associated with intramammary infections (IMI), can be found ubiquitously in the cow's environment. Although Strep. uberis is reported to be susceptible to most antimicrobials, in practice poor responses to treatment and recurrent mastitis are observed. This can be explained by reinfection or by persistence of strains. We hypothesized that among a heterogeneous group of Strep. uberis mastitis isolates, some predominant host-adapted clones might be recurrently isolated from IMI. Therefore, the aim of this pilot study was to determine the Strep. uberis genotype variety found among small-scale dairy herds (127 Austrian dairy farms) and compare this with a large-scale herd (a Slovakian dairy farm). We determined the occurrence and strain diversity of Strep. uberis (n = 309) isolates using molecular analysis. Streptococcus uberis isolates from aseptically collected quarter milk samples were genotypically characterized using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus sequence typing. The Strep. uberis strain set covered isolates from 4 Austrian federal areas [Lower Austria (n = 67), Upper Austria (n = 8), Salzburg (n = 51), and Styria (n = 1)] and the Bratislava Region of Slovakia (n = 1). The PFGE analysis resulted in 187 SmaI profiles with 151 unique profiles. Simpson's index of diversity was 0.988. Individual cows (n = 17) harbored up to 3 different PFGE types in the udder. Dairy cows shared distinct PFGE types within a farm. Seven PFGE types were widely distributed among Austrian dairy farms. In the Slovakian farm, 10 predominant PFGE types were recurrently isolated from the same quarters; these genotypes were assigned as persisters. We identified novel sequence types (ST) using multilocus sequence typing related to the global clonal complexes ST5 and ST143. We concluded that Strep. uberis IMI are caused by strains with a wide heterogeneity of PFGE types. This large number of unique subtypes indicates a high diversity of Strep. uberis in the environment. In the large herd, molecular epidemiological results revealed that specific strains might be involved in contagious transmission events and potentially lead to persistence.