The National Mastitis Council (NMC) awarded an expense-paid trip to the 62nd NMC Annual Meeting, scheduled for Jan. 30-Feb. 2, in Atlanta, to four graduate students – Caitlin Jeffrey, University of Vermont, Mauricio Oliveira, Ohio State University, Alicia Romano, University of Bern, and Helena Reydams, Ghent University. This program strives to support the development of future udder health, milking management and milk quality specialists.
A 2013 Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Jeffrey is currently pursuing a PhD in the University of Vermont’s department of veterinary sciences. As part of John Barlow’s lab at the University of Vermont, she is conducting research to better understand infection dynamics and risk factors for intramammary infections caused by non-aureus staphylococci on 10 organic dairy herds in Vermont. Additionally, she is exploring how different species among non-aureus staphylococci may be of more concern for udder health. Furthermore, Jeffrey is striving to identify if genetic differences within the most commonly found species, Staphylococcus chromogenes, help explain variability in inflammatory response to intramammary infection with this bacterium, using whole-genome sequencing to identify virulence potential.
While pursuing her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, Jeffrey spent one summer on a 3,200-cow in China. She assisted herd veterinarians and developed training materials and written standard operating procedures.
After earning her doctoral degree in mastitis and veterinary epidemiology, Jeffrey plans to pursue a career in extension and outreach, regulatory work or the animal health industry in product development, sales or communications. “Advances in the animal health industry can help minimize the environmental cost of food production, protect the food supply by making it both safe and dependable, and help to feed the world’s growing population,” she explained.
Oliveira is pursuing a PhD, under the mentorship of Ben Enger, a 2016 NMC Scholar. The primary goal of Oliveira’s doctoral candidate research is to delineate how mastitis in primigravid dairy heifers adversely affects mammary gland growth and development. His project involves challenging mammary glands of different gestational-aged gravid heifers with Staphylococcus aureus to establish a persistent infection and compare these mammary glands to those infused with saline. He collects mammary secretions and mammary tissues. Then, he uses chemical and immunohistochemical staining to assess tissue structure and cellular apoptosis and proliferation. This information will help him understand how gravid heifer mammary glands are hindered by mastitis to identify potential therapeutics and mitigation approaches.
Oliveira’s research interests started as an undergraduate student at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil. Next, he participated in an exchange program that took him to the University of Kentucky, where we worked on the Southeast (United States) Quality Milk Initiative. In 2017, Oliveira started a master’s degree at Mississippi State University, under the guidance of Amanda Stone. That research focused on evaluating a synthetic version of the naturally occurring protein, bovine granulocyte colony stimulating factor, in its ability to reduce the incidence of mastitis in cows around calving. Following completion of his doctoral studies, Oliveira plans to remain in academia.
Romano obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in veterinary biotechnology sciences from the University of Milan. For two years, she conducted research for the Italian Ministry of Health, focusing on the epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus methicillin-resistant (MRSA) and Staphylococcus aureus methicillin-susceptible (MSSA) bacteria in dairy herds and dairy products. In 2018, she joined Agroscope, a public Swiss center for agricultural research in Bern, Switzerland, as a PhD candidate. Romano’s key project is “Analysis of the bovine intramammary resistome and of the bacterial transmission within dairy herds.”
During her master’s degree studies, Romano worked on a project that aimed to characterize the virulence genes and genotypes of Staphylococcus aureus isolated from bulk tank milk from goats. Next, she worked on whole-genome sequencing of Staphylococcus aureus isolated from 60 northern Italy herds. This information was used as an instrument for researching antibiotic-resistant genes, virulence factors and genomic characterization. This research detected a gene – adlb – which can be used as a major marker for contagiousness in bovine herds that have a Staphylococcus aureus mastitis problem. Romano’s PhD research strives to detect the antibiotic-resistant genes that bacteria can carry and discover the correlation between bacteria found in the mammary gland and bacteria found in the environment.
A veterinarian, Reydams was born in the United States to Belgian parents. She attended Michigan State University for two years as a pre-veterinary medicine student, with a focus on animal husbandry. Reydams completed her veterinary medicine education and earned a master’s degree in Belgium, and discovered her passion for ruminants. Her first research publication, which focused on the iron uptake of non-aureus staphylococci in the bovine mammary gland, assessed the genetic diversity and iron-uptake capabilities of Staphylococcus hominis isolated from bovine quarter milk, rectal feces and teat apices from iron-binding proteins, such as lactoferrin and ferritin. Differences in iron uptake between species could highlight their relevance as a cause of bovine mastitis.
Sarne De Vliegher, Reydams’ graduate school supervisor, praised Reydams for her ability to combine extensive laboratory work, including routine milk culturing and strain typing, with field study design and working closely with dairy producers. “She is fully devoted to her research and has become a very respected member of our team and department (M-team and mastitis and milk quality research unit of the department of reproduction, obstetrics and herd health), and is keen on guiding Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students,” De Vliegher wrote.
National Mastitis Council is a professional organization devoted to reducing mastitis and enhancing milk quality. NMC promotes research and provides information to the dairy industry on udder health, milking management, milk quality and milk safety. Founded in 1961, NMC has about 1,000 members in more than 40 countries throughout the world.