Every day, the U.S. consumes more than 16 million gallons of milk. Despite the technology and safety standards that are in place, some of the milk contains a bacterium linked to Johne’s disease in cattle and possibly to Crohn’s disease in people.
A $500,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture will allow Cornell University researchers to continue their work to identify Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis in milk, determine risk factors for milk contamination, and document recommended intervention strategies. The grant will build on the results of a $2.5 million project that has been under way since 2009.
During the four years it takes for a cow to develop clinical signs of MAP infection, the cow has typically produced thousands of gallons of milk. Recent studies have shown that MAP can survive pasteurization in milk. Johne’s disease, which is caused by infection with MAP, is blamed for up to $250 million in annual losses to the U.S. dairy industry.
The researchers are involved in a nine-year longitudinal study to gather DNA from four generations of cows and from bacterial isolates, according to Dr. Ynte Schukken, principal investigator and professor of epidemiology and herd health at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Our study covers the entire spectrum, with data and samples collected from the field, cultured in the lab, and bacteria and host DNA sequenced using the most modern genomic methods,” Dr. Schukken said.
The researchers include scientists from Cornell, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Maryland.
“Our immediate goal is to provide dairy farmers with the tools they need to produce milk that is free of MAP bacteria,” Dr. Schukken said.