Post-partum metritis is among the most prevalent disease in dairy cows affecting animal welfare and inflicting considerable economic loses. While post-partum contamination of the uterus is rife in dairy cows, only a fraction of these animals will develop metritis. Our main objective was to compare the bacterial communities and the inflammatory response in the endometrium of healthy and metritic dairy cows. Holstein-Friesian cows (n = 35) were sampled immediately following clinical classification as healthy (n = 21), suffering from metritis (n = 13) or septic metritis (n = 1), based on veterinary examination at 5-10 days post-partum. Polymorphonuclear cells (PMN) percentage in endometrial cytology was significantly higher in cows with metritis. Full-thickness uterine biopsy analysis revealed that the luminal epithelium in inter-caruncle areas was preserved in healthy cows, but in metritis it was compromised, with marked PMN infiltration particularly in the apical endometrium. Gram staining revealed that bacterial load and spatial distribution was associated with disease severity. 16S-rDNA bacterial community analysis revealed unique endometrial bacterial community composition in metritic cows, as compared to more diverse communities among healthy cows. The most abundant phyla in healthy cows were Proteobacteria (31.8 ± 9.3%), Firmicutes (27.9 ± 8.4%) and Bacteroidetes (19.7 ± 7.2%), while Bacteroidetes (60.3 ± 10.3%), Fusobacteria (13.4 ± 5.9%) and Firmicutes (10.5 ± 3.3%) were most abundant in the endometrial mucosa of metritic cows. Relative abundance of Bacteroidetes (19.7 ± 7.2% vs. 60.3 ± 10.3%), Fusobacteria (7.5 ± 5.2% vs. 13.4 ± 5.9%) and Proteobacteria (31.8 ± 9.3% vs. 7.3 ± 5.6%) phyla differed significantly between healthy and metritic cows. In summary, endometrial PMN abundance, spatial distribution and bacterial communities differed between healthy and metritic dairy cows at early post-partum.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by The Israel Dairy Board Fund (Grant Nos. 668‑ 0093‑10, 705‑0064‑14).
© 2018 The Author(s).