Dairy cattle are susceptible to increased incidence and severity of disease during the periparturient period. Increased health disorders have been associated with alterations in bovine immune mechanisms. Many different aspects of the bovine immune system change during the periparturient period, but uncontrolled inflammation is a dominant factor in several economically important disorders such as metritis and mastitis. In human medicine, the metabolic syndrome is known to trigger several key events that can initiate and promote uncontrolled systemic inflammation. Altered lipid metabolism, increased circulating concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids and oxidative stress are significant contributing factors to systemic inflammation and the development of inflammatory-based diseases in humans. Dairy cows undergo similar metabolic adaptations during the onset of lactation, and it was postulated that some of these physiological events may negatively impact the magnitude and duration of inflammation. This review will discuss how certain types of fatty acids may promote uncontrolled inflammation either directly or through metabolism into potent lipid mediators. The relationship of increased lipid metabolism and oxidative stress to inflammatory dysfunction will be reviewed as well. Understanding more about the underlying cause of periparturient health disorders may facilitate the design of nutritional regimens that will meet the energy requirements of cows during early lactation and reduce the susceptibility to disease as a function of compromised inflammatory responses.
(Received April 30 2009)
(Accepted May 15 2009)
† This paper is based on a presentation by Dr Sordillo as the Distinguished Veterinary Immunologist at the 89th Annual Meeting of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases (CRWAD), Chicago, 7 December 2008.