Next Article in Journal
Bioremediation Strategy for Chromium-Contaminated Soils
Previous Article in Journal
The Development of the Human Milk Microbiota over the First Two Years Postpartum in the Breastfeeding Longitudinal Observational Study of Mothers and Kids (BLOSOM) Cohort
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

Microbial Underpinnings of Mastitis: Current State of the Evidence †

Lisa F. Stinson
1,2,3,* and
Donna T. Geddes
School of Molecular Sciences, The University Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
ABREAST Network, Perth, WA 6000, Australia
UWA Centre for Human Lactation Research and Translation, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Presented at the Australian Breastfeeding + Lactation Research and Science Translation Conference (ABREAST Conference 2023), Perth, Australia, 10 November 2023.
Proceedings 2023, 93(1), 4;
Published: 19 December 2023


Mastitis is an inflammatory condition of the breast, with or without accompanying infection. The recent release of the revised Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocol on mastitis (Clinical Protocol #36) has caused controversy within the field. The updated protocol positions multiple typical human milk commensal bacteria as causative agents of mastitis. However, data to support these relationships are lacking. Here, we critically review human and animal evidence for the role of the milk microbiota in mastitis. Only three metataxonomic/metagenomic studies have characterized the human milk microbiome in cases of mastitis. These studies consistently report reduced alpha diversity and elevated levels of Staphylococcus aureus in mastitic milk samples; however, the remaining findings presented are conflicting and inconsistent. Collectively, the three studies included 45 sub-acute mastitis cases, 24 acute mastitis cases, and 52 healthy controls, and are thus limited by low participant numbers. In addition, the studies vary in their definition of sub-acute/acute mastitis, their methodologies, and antibiotic exposure in the mastitic groups. Further, these studies provide data on the state of the microbiome during mastitis, with no data currently available on the milk microbiome preceding the onset of mastitis. These kind of longitudinal data are critical to identify candidates for disease causation. Emerging evidence from animal models is suggestive of the involvement of the gut microbiota. Studies have reported that fecal microbiota transplantation from mastitic cows to germ-free mice results in mastitis symptoms. Future studies should therefore consider the maternal microbiome more broadly when assessing the etiology of mastitis. While S. aureus is frequently recognized as a mastitis-related pathogen, data from culture-based and culture-independent studies demonstrate that this species is present in healthy women and cannot be detected in a significant portion of cases. This suggests heterogenous causes for bacterial mastitis, necessitating broader screening. Overall, data in this field are sparse, and current clinical guidelines lack high-quality evidence to support them. There is therefore a pressing need for further research in this area to better characterize the causes of mastitis and thereby underpin future therapeutics.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, L.F.S. and D.T.G.; investigation, L.F.S.; writing—original draft preparation, L.F.S.; writing—review and editing, D.T.G. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.

Conflicts of Interest

D.T.G. declares participation in the Scientific Advisory Board of Medela AG. L.F.S. and D.T.G. are/were supported by an unrestricted research grant from Medela AG, administered by The University of Western Australia. The funders had no role in the design of the review; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to publish the results.
Disclaimer/Publisher’s Note: The statements, opinions and data contained in all publications are solely those of the individual author(s) and contributor(s) and not of MDPI and/or the editor(s). MDPI and/or the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to people or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content.

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Stinson, L.F.; Geddes, D.T. Microbial Underpinnings of Mastitis: Current State of the Evidence. Proceedings 2023, 93, 4.

AMA Style

Stinson LF, Geddes DT. Microbial Underpinnings of Mastitis: Current State of the Evidence. Proceedings. 2023; 93(1):4.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Stinson, Lisa F., and Donna T. Geddes. 2023. "Microbial Underpinnings of Mastitis: Current State of the Evidence" Proceedings 93, no. 1: 4.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop