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Hygienic and health characteristics of donkey milk during a follow-up study

  • Rachel Pilla (a1), Valentina Daprà (a1), Alfonso Zecconi (a1) and Renata Piccinini (a1)


For its characteristics, donkey milk has been proposed as an alternative to goat or artificial milk to feed allergic infants. Therefore, it is important to increase our knowledge on health and immunological characteristics of donkey milk. Ten donkeys, bred as companion animals, were enrolled in this study and sampled once a month, for eight months. Milk (10 ml) was collected from each half udder for somatic cell count (SCC), bacteriological analysis and total bacteria count (TBC). The major pathogens were tested for antimicrobial susceptibility, and Staphylococcus aureus isolates were further genotyped by nanoarray analysis. Whey lysozyme and NAGase (NAG) activities were also assessed. Overall, 101 half-udder milk samples were taken. They showed very low values of TBC (<250 cfu/ml) and SCC (<50 000 cells/ml) and a minor prevalence of pathogens: Staph. aureus was isolated only from 5 milk samples (3 animals), Streptococcus equi from 2 samples and Str. equisimilis from a single sample. All the isolates were sensitive to all antibiotic classes used in veterinary medicine. None of the Staph. aureus isolates were shown to harbour genes coding for any enterotoxin, toxic-shock syndrome toxin or antibiotic resistance. Lysozyme levels were always very high (4000–5000 U/ml), while NAG values were mostly low (<50 U/ml), out of the last part of lactation. The results of this study confirmed the low prevalence of intramammary infections in donkey and the absence of food-borne pathogens, suggesting that donkey milk could be a safe food, if the mammary gland is healthy and the animals are milked in proper hygienic conditions.


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Hygienic and health characteristics of donkey milk during a follow-up study

  • Rachel Pilla (a1), Valentina Daprà (a1), Alfonso Zecconi (a1) and Renata Piccinini (a1)


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