By Stephen Cadogan
The search for alternatives to veterinary antibiotics in treating mastitis in dairy cows continues, and perhaps one of the most unconventional solutions is low-intensity shockwave technology, already proven and used worldwide in human medicine.
It is a non-invasive, non-antibiotic, local treatment of mastitis, and was introduced to US dairy farmers at the recent World Dairy Expo, in Madison, Wisconsin, in the form of Acoustic Pulse Therapy (APT).
It is designed specifically for treating subclinical and clinical mastitis in dairy cows, based on the patented low- intensity shockwave technology used over the last 35 years for treating human patients with ailments such as inflammatory diseases, heart ischemia, and erectile dysfunction.
This therapy produces new blood vessels, reduces inflammation and improves tissue function, and has long-term effects.
It’s a welcome addition to the arsenal deployed against mastitis, which is the primary target disease for use of antibiotics in dairy farming around the world.
But use of antibiotics is under threat due to the dangerous upsurge in drug-resistant superbugs, which is partly traceable to careless use of antibiotics on farms.
Antibiotic-free treatments would also remove the risk for dairy farmers of stiff fines if the chemicals are found in milk delivered to the co-op, due to milk not being discarded for the full specified withdrawal period after dosage.
Armenta, the company marketing APT, is based in Israel, a leading dairy farming nation, and their spokesman Eddy Papirov said: “The APT device was designed and adapted to produce deep penetrating acoustic pulses that are distributed over a large area such as the cow’s udder, and treated at a therapeutic level, without causing any pain or discomfort to the cow.
Its launch was straightforward in the US, where the Food and Drug Administration does not require pre-market approval for devices used in veterinary medicine.
In a study of Armenta’s APT technology in 116 dairy cows with subclinical mastitis and 29 dairy cows with clinical mastitis from three herds, 70% of cows with subclinical and 76% with clinical mastitis recovered following APT, compared to 18% and 19% in the control groups, respectively.
Cows with subclinical mastitis treated with APT produced 11% more milk, with higher quality, than the control group.
Following APT, 8% of cows with clinical mastitis were culled, compared to 56% treated with antibiotics.
Use of APT does not require bacterial identification, and it is not necessary to discard milk during treatment.
Most cows are treated with antibiotics only during the dry-off period, to kill and/or to slow down growth of bacteria, thus allowing the immune cells to eradicate the bacteria.
However, the antibiotics do not aid in regenerating damaged tissue.
In contrast, ATP not only increases activation of immune cells, but also accelerates recovery of regenerated udder tissue.
Armenta says the technology could potentially be used to treat other cattle diseases beyond mastitis, such as ones that affect the reproduction system or cause lameness.