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It was the objective of this study to analyse shedding patterns and somatic cell counts in cows and quarters infected with Prototheca spp. and to evaluate two approaches to identify infected animals by somatic cell count (SCC) or by bacteriological analysis of pooled milk samples. Five lactating dairy cows, chronically infected with Prototheca spp. in at least one quarter were studied over 11 weeks to 13 months. Quarter milk samples and a pooled milk sample from 4 quarters were collected aseptically from all quarters of the cows on a weekly basis. Culture results of quarter milk and pooled samples were compared using cross tabulation. SCC of quarter milk samples and of pooled samples were related to the probability of detection in the infected quarters and cows, respectively. Shedding of Prototheca spp. was continuous in 2 of 8 quarters. In the other quarters negative samples were obtained sporadically or over a longer period (1 quarter). Overall, Prototheca spp. were isolated from 83.6% of quarter milk samples and 77.0% of pooled milk samples of infected quarters and cows. Somatic cell counts were higher in those samples from infected quarters that contained the algae than in negative samples (p < 0.0001). The same applied for composite samples from infected cows. Positive samples had higher SCC than negative samples. However, Prototheca spp. were also isolated from quarter milk and pooled samples with physiological SCC (i.e. < 10(5)/ml). Infected quarters that were dried off did not develop acute mastitis. However, drying off had no effect on the infection, i.e. samples collected at calving or 8 weeks after dry off still contained Prototheca spp. Results indicate that pre-selection of cows to be sampled for Prototheca spp. by SCC and the use of composite samples are probably inadequate in attempts to eradicate the disease. However, due to intermittent shedding of the algae in some cows, single herd sampling using quarter milk samples probably also fails to detect all infected cases. Therefore, continuous monitoring of problem cows with clinical mastitis or increased SCC in herds during eradication programs is recommended.