Breakthrough in treating cow disease

A new biological treatment could prevent dairy cattle from developing uterine disease which would, in turn, improve food safety for people, according to a study published in the journal Biomaterials.

When researchers from the University of Florida infused chitosan microparticles—an antimicrobial material made of dissolved shrimp shells—into diseased cow uteri, they found it decreased multiple pathogenic bacteria and cured metritis, an inflammation in the uterus.

The study, which was conducted in the field at a commercial farm, investigated further some conclusions the team had reached earlier in the lab.

“We did follow-up experiments in animals to cure the disease which is very important,” said the paper’s co-author, Kwang Cheol Jeong, who focused on uterine disease because it is often linked to bacteria and can cause infertility in cows and lower milk production.

“It’s a critical advance because most lab data are not repeated in real-world situations. However, our work showed that chitosan microparticles can be translated into clinical treatment for animals and even for humans.”

When bought in stores, chitosan can be used to treat many ailments from obesity to anemia. But on its own, chitosan only works at acidic pH levels.

For cattle, the team developed chitosan microparticles which work in both acidic and neutral pH because cattle uteri have a neutral pH.

Jeong said more research is needed but it may someday be possible for chitosan microparticles to be used to help humans who have become ill from consuming E. coli-contaminated food.

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