Mastitis, the most consequential disease in dairy cattle, costs the US dairy industry billions of dollars annually. To test the feasibility of protecting animals through genetic engineering, transgenic cows secreting lysostaphin at concentrations ranging from 0.9 to 14 mg/ml in their milk were produced. In vitro assays demonstrated the milk's ability to kill Staphylococcus aureus. Intramammary infusions of S. aureus were administered to three transgenic and ten nontransgenic cows. Increases in milk somatic cells, elevated body temperatures and induced acute phase proteins, each indicative of infection, were observed in all of the nontransgenic cows but in none of the transgenic animals. Protection against S. aureus mastitis appears to be achievable with as little as 3 mg/ml of lysostaphin in milk. Our results indicate that genetic engineering can provide a viable tool for enhancing resistance to disease and improve the well-being of livestock.
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We thank Caird Rexroad, Jr., Lanette Edwards and John Bramley for helping establish the groundwork on which this project was built. We thank Paul Graninger for excellent technical assistance and Linda Mooney, Jon Leith and Mike Kemp for expert animal care. We also thank Duane Norman for milking record analysis. Reference to any commercial product or service is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the USDA is implied.
D.E.K. is co-inventor on a US patent that incorporates some aspects of this work.
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Wall, R., Powell, A., Paape, M. et al. Genetically enhanced cows resist intramammary Staphylococcus aureus infection. Nat Biotechnol 23, 445–451 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt1078
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