Commercial J5 bacterins are formulated with a mutant strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O111:B4 (Rc mutant) lacking the “O” antigen capsule of the cell wall but with the core lipopolysaccharide (endotoxin) intact. These core antigens are highly conserved among Gram-negative bacteria (Cullor, 1991) and elicit cross-reactive antibodies against a wide variety of Gram-negative bacteria in J5 vaccinated cows (Chaiyotwittayakun et al., 2004). Vaccination with J5 bacterin increases anti-J5 E. coli antibodies in serum and milk as compared to unvaccinated controls (Hogan et al., 1992b; Tomita et al., 2000).
Initial field trials determined that three immunizations during the dry period and early lactation reduced the rate of clinical mastitis caused by Gram-negative pathogens during the first three months of lactation (Hogan et al., 1992a; Gonzalez et al., 1989). A more recent study revealed that clinical mastitis in non-vaccinated cows was nearly 3 times as likely to result in culling or death as clinical mastitis in J5-vaccinated cows (Wilson et al., 2007). Although J5 bacterins reduce the severity of infections, evidence that infections are prevented has been inconclusive (Hogan et al., 1992; Tomita et al., 2000; Hill, 1991).
Gram-negative bacterins are regarded as weakly immunogenic in cattle because they elicit poor memory responses from antibody-producing cells (Kehrli and Harp, 2001). This suggestion is supported by a field study that determined that use of the J5 bacterin reduced the rate of clinical mastitis and culling following a clinical mastitis episode but that this protection waned as time after vaccination increased (Wilson et al., 2007). Hyperimmunization (vaccinating in multiple doses) of Holstein steers with at least five doses of J5 bacterin was required to elevate cross-reactive anti-J5 E. coli antibodies in serum above pre-immunization levels (Chaiyotwittayakun et al., 2004). Additionally, continued immunization with the J5 bacterin resulted in serum antibodies that bound to bacterial proteins; these antibodies were lacking in the same animals after only three immunizations.
In a recent field study in Michigan, hyperimmunization (six doses) of mature lactating dairy cattle increased serum anti-J5 antibodies, and decreased occurrence of severe mastitis, particularly in cases that occurred between 45 and 160 days in milk (Erskine et al., 2007). Hyperimmunization also improved animal survival through the first 305 days in milk of lactation. However, this apparent benefit may have a limited duration. This idea was corroborated in a study conducted in New York in which the investigators determined that cows vaccinated against J5 E. coli had an increase in adjusted daily milk production for 21 days after clinical mastitis, compared with results for unvaccinated control cows; however, the protective effect of vaccination waned with increasing number of days of lactation at onset of the clinical mastitis (Wilson et al., 2008). For dairy herds that experience increased risk of severe clinical mastitis associated with peak milk production (45 to 120 days of lactation), increasing the number of doses with core-antigen vaccines may reduce losses from this disease. The economic benefits of such a protocol remain speculative, and development of Gram-negative bacterins that provide adequate protection with fewer doses should be a long-term goal of core-antigen technology. In a further investigation, we determined that changing the location of injection sites in dairy cows during the course of an immunization regimen with J5 bacterins may improve the duration of the immune response as measured by serum antibody response (Erskine et al., 2010).
Ron J. Erskine, Michigan State University
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