Traditional antibiotics, it’s time to moo-ve over.

UF researchers created a new treatment to help cattle fight uterine diseases, which could go on to improve food safety.

Kwang Jeong, assistant professor in animal sciences and UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, said his team used chitosan microparticles, a natural antibiotic antimicrobial material made of crustacean shells, to kill bacteria, including E. coli, a bacteria known to cause illness.

The cows treated had a uterine disease, which Jeong said was important because those cows cause a huge economic loss in the U.S.

“The estimated loss is about $600 million,” he said. “If the cows have a uterine disease, their meat or dairy products can’t be sold.”

Jeong’s team tested 10 cows. They wanted to compare the results of the traditional antibiotics and the chitosan microparticles on killing the E. coli.

He said the natural chitosan microparticles were as effective at killing the E. coli as were the traditional antibiotics.

The problem with the traditional antibiotics is that bacteria was becoming more resistant to the antibiotics, he said. With the chitosan microparticles, there are low odds the bacteria will become resistant.

Klibs Galvao, an assistant professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, said alternatives such as the chitosan microparticles has potential for treatment in humans.

For now, the researchers are testing the microparticles on more cows to show the effectiveness among more animals, Galvao said.

“We want to make chitosan microparticles more specific to killing E. coli that affects humans,” Galvao said. “Then the cattle can be treated before they go to slaughter so they aren’t contaminated and it can improve food safety.”

[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 3/28/2014 under the headline "Gators find cow disease treatment"]