Epidemiology of coagulase-negative staphylococci intramammary infection in dairy cattle and the effect of bacteriological culture misclassification.
ABSTRACT Objectives of this study were to identify the manageable risk factors associated with the lactational incidence, elimination, and prevalence of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) intramammary infections (IMI) while taking into account the difficulties inherent to their diagnosis. A second objective was to evaluate the effect of CNS IMI misclassification in mastitis research. A cohort of 90 Canadian dairy herds was followed throughout 2007 to 2008. In each herd, series of quarter milk samples were collected from a subsample of cows and bacteriological culture was performed to identify prevalent, incident, and eliminated CNS IMI. Practices used on farms were captured using direct observations and a validated questionnaire. The relationships between herd CNS IMI prevalence and herd incidence and elimination rates were explored using linear regression. Manageable risk factors associated with the prevalence, incidence, or elimination of CNS IMI were identified via Bayesian analyses using a latent class model approach, allowing adjustment of the estimates for the imperfect sensitivity and specificity of bacteriological culture. After adjustment for the diagnostic test limitations, a mean CNS IMI quarter prevalence of 42.7% [95% confidence interval (CI): 34.7, 50.1] and incidence and elimination rates of 0.29 new IMI/quarter-month (95% CI: 0.21, 0.37) and 0.79 eliminated IMI/quarter-month (95% CI: 0.66, 0.91), respectively, were observed. Considerable biases of the estimates were observed when CNS IMI misclassification was ignored. These biases were important for measures of association with risk factors, were almost always toward the null value, and led to both type I and type II errors. Coagulase-negative staphylococci IMI incidence appeared to be a stronger determinant of herd IMI prevalence than IMI elimination rate. The majority of herds followed were already using blanket dry cow treatment and postmilking teat disinfection. A holistic approach considering associations with all 3 outcomes was used to interpret associations between manageable risk factors and CNS IMI. Sand and wood-based product bedding showed desirable associations with CNS IMI compared with straw bedding. Quarters of cows that had access to pasture during the sampling period had lower odds of acquiring a new CNS IMI and of having a prevalent CNS IMI. Many practices showed an association with only one of the CNS outcomes and should, therefore, be considered with caution.