Laboratory-based evaluation of a simplified point-of-care test intended to support treatment decisions in non-severe bovine clinical mastitis

Francisco B. Malcata , P. Theo Pepler* , Ruth N. Zadoks and Lorenzo Viora

To limit the use of antimicrobials in dairy cattle, farmers are increasingly encouraged to adopt targeted treatment decisions based on knowledge of the pathogens causing clinical mastitis (CM), whereby treatment of non-severe CM is generally recommended for gram-positive mastitis but not for gram-negative or culture-negative mastitis. The objectives of this study were to conduct a laboratory-based evaluation of the performance of a simplified slide test as a tool to differentiate gram-positive CM from other cases of CM, and to compare its performance against a commercially available on-farm test that is commonly used in our area (VétoRapid). Test outcomes after 24–48 h incubation were compared to results from bacteriological culture and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF MS). Milk samples (n = 156) were obtained from cases of severe and non-severe CM on seven farms and collected by farm personnel. After removal of small numbers of contaminated samples and organisms with unknown species identity, the simplified slide test showed high sensitivity and accuracy (>80%), similar to the comparator test. For most outcomes of interest (culture positive, Escherichia coli, or gram-positive growth), the specificity of the slide test was higher than the specificity of the comparator test. When considering non-severe cases of CM only, and interpreting detection of gram-positive organisms as indicative of the need for antimicrobial treatment, the simplified test had higher specificity (77.4% v. 60.4%) and higher positive predictive value (79.7% v. 70.0%) than the comparator test and similar sensitivity (83.9% v. 87.5%). The proportion of sampled CM cases, contaminated samples and gram-positive mastitis cases – which affects the positive and negative predictive value, the economic value of diagnostic testing and its potential to reduce antimicrobial use – differed between farms. The simplicity and accuracy of the slide test could make it an attractive tool for farmers to target antimicrobial treatment of non-severe clinical mastitis.

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