St. Cloud State University Teams Up With University of Minnesota In Biological Experiments


The St. Cloud State University’s Biology Department is working with the University of Minnesota in a biological experiment about milk production.

SCSU Microbiology Professor, Ryan Fink, says some of his students are looking at the presence of microbiome in cattle and their living area which is an extremely important factor in the development of mastitis.

Nusrat Annie Jahan, a graduate student in the cell and molecular biology department, says her research is about mastitis, which is a very damaging and devastating disease for dairy products. Her research has a great economical importance because the disease has reduced milk production. It has caused $2 million worth of damage in dairy industry.

Each year $200 is spent on the treatment of cows infected with the disease. Thus, Jahan thinks it is important to diagnose the bacteria and pathogens that are producing mastitis. To cure the disease in the best possible case, researchers should treat the pathogens quite well.

What Jahan and her classmates do is that they receive mastitic-affected milk samples from the Dairy Quality Institute and Abd VDL, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Minnesota. They collect the milk and try to isolate the pathogens that cause mastitis. They then try to diagnose it through a technique called PCR which takes more than 24 hours.

PCR is short for Polymerase Chain Reaction. It is a technique to amplify the nucleic acid (DNA) of organisms for identification purposes.

Fink goes on to add that the University of Minnesota has a new identification system which functions on the basis of chemical analysis. It enables researchers to figure out whether certain organic compounds are present in samples. They can then match the result to a data base which tells them if certain organisms are present in the culture that they are analyzing. Therefore, they can identify the organism based on the chemical profile that researchers receive.

The main moto of Jahan and her classmates’ research is to validate a new technique called MALDI- TOF which is very fast and accurate in comparison with the technique used at SCSU. The new technique is done as quickly as half an hour.

Prof. Fink adds mastitis is critically important in dairy cattle particularly if in the subclinical level of the disease. In some cases, even though animals are sick, no one can detect the bacterium due to the absence of symptoms.  As a result, the bacteria would have a negative effect on the quantity and quality of the milk cows produce.

Sometimes, you cannot detect any symptoms until after the milk is produced. Prof. Fink and his students try to find the genetic signature that identifies the presence of the microbe in the environment. Once researchers have the signature, they can evaluate if there is a subclinical level of the disease in cows.

Researchers then cure the disease if it is present. They also use computational tools and data bases to prevent the growth or resurgence of the disease. Such tools help to see if the body of animals is conducive to the growth of the disease.

In cases where researchers can find symptoms, they would notice inflammation in the body of animals. Those who own cattle should keep a wary eye on their animals and the milk they produce to cure their animals in a timely manner.

They can sometime treat the disease with some antibiotics, but using such medications would make the bacteria resistant to antibiotics. As a result, researchers are trying to come up with a natural treatment of the disease to avoid surfacing of new problems.

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