PLoS ONE 15 (12) e0242880 [2020-12-02; online 2020-12-02]
Udder cleft dermatitis (UCD) is a skin condition affecting the fore udder attachment of dairy cows. UCD may be defined as mild (eczematous skin changes) or severe (open wounds, large skin changes). Our aims were to compare the microbiota of mild and severe UCD lesions with the microbiota of healthy skin from the fore udder attachment of control cows, and to investigate whether mastitis-causing pathogens are present in UCD lesions. Samples were obtained from cows in six dairy herds. In total, 36 UCD samples categorized as mild (n = 17) or severe (n = 19) and 13 control samples were sequenced using a shotgun metagenomic approach and the reads were taxonomically classified based on their k-mer content. The Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to compare the abundance of different taxa between different sample types, as well as to compare the bacterial diversity between samples. A high proportion of bacteria was seen in all samples. Control samples had a higher proportion of archaeal reads, whereas most samples had low proportions of fungi, protozoa and viruses. The bacterial microbiota differed between controls and mild and severe UCD samples in both composition and diversity. Subgroups of UCD samples were visible, characterized by increased proportion of one or a few bacterial genera or species, e.g. Corynebacterium, Staphylococcus, Brevibacterium luteolum, Trueperella pyogenes and Fusobacterium necrophorum. Bifidobacterium spp. were more common in controls compared to UCD samples. The bacterial diversity was higher in controls compared to UCD samples. Bacteria commonly associated with mastitis were uncommon. In conclusion, a dysbiosis of the microbiota of mild and severe UCD samples was seen, characterized by decreased diversity and an increased proportion of certain bacteria. There was no evidence of a specific pathogen causing UCD or that UCD lesions are important reservoirs for mastitis-causing bacteria.