Dairy cattle often show symptoms of mastitis – inflamed udders. The inflammation can be due to trauma to udders or infections. That is a normal immunological reaction to overcome the problem. But when the inflammation persists, as in the case of some bacterial infections, it can damage udder tissue and reduce the quality and quantity of milk.
Mastitis can be caused by a wide variety of bacterial pathogens. A good indicator of mastitis due to bacterial infection is the number of white blood cells per millilitre of milk. Normally it should be less than 100,000 per millilitre. But in mastitis, it can go to more than 250,000.
To treat mastitis, usually long-acting antibiotics such as penicillin G are injected. However, antibiotics for treating cow mastitis are costly. They can disturb the cow’s natural microflora. And, over time, using antibiotics can also lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. Most importantly, antibiotics leave residues in the milk of treated cows.
So Vaibhav D. Bhatt and his team from the Saurashtra University, Gujarat decided to look for an alternative treatment: Terminalia chebula fruit powder extract. The fruit powder is an ingredient in triphala, an ayurvedic preparation. Recent research reports suggest that Terminalia chebula has antioxidant and antibiotic properties.
First, the team collected milk samples from desi cows such as Gir and Kankrej as well as from crossbred cattle. The team screened 20 cows from each breed for mastitis, by counting somatic cells in the milk samples. Milk from five Gir, six Kankrej and nine crossbred cows had higher somatic cell counts indicating mastitis.
The researchers screened the samples for bacteria, and found four pathogenic strains: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Bacillus megaterium.
Now they turned to testing their hypothesis. They took fresh fruits of Terminalia chebula, dried and powdered them. The powder was dissolved in ethyl acetate. After filtering the extract, they removed the ethyl acetate using vacuum evaporation.
The researchers tested the efficiency of the fruit extract against the bacterial strains isolated from cows with mastitis. For comparison, they used Amoxicillin, a derivative of penicillin. In the plate well diffusion assay, all bacterial cell cultures showed a zone of inhibition around chebula fruit extract. The fruit extract at 500 milligrams per millilitre was better than the control, Amoxicillin, in inhibiting the bacteria.
Now that we know that the fruit extract is effective against microbes responsible for mastitis, we need animal studies. Since the Myrobalan fruit has proven beneficial effects on health in humans, it may perhaps be assumed that it would be safe for dairy cattle also. Moreover, researchers from China and Iran have already experimented with the fruit powder in cattle and chicken feed. About one percent by weight of the powder is mixed with cattle fodder to inhibit bacterial infections.
The obstacle in using the powder in bacterial infections of cattle is the high production cost. Thus, we need more research to reduce production cost and to gain more understanding about the mechanism of action of the processed powder on dairy cattle and on bacteria.
Anim. Biotechnol., 30(2): 151-158 (2019);
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