E. coli O157 shedding in dairy cattle

Escherichia coli O157 is a human pathogen carried asymptomatically by cattle and shed in their feces. Infection can occur from the consumption of contaminated beef or by direct contact.

madison.men.cowLarge variations of E. coli O157 shedding in cattle exist and vary in the number of cattle positive for E. coli O157 and the amount of bacteria (c.f.u./g feces) shed by positive animals. To investigate E. coli O157 shedding and super-shedding (>104 c.f.u./g) we used daily sampling over two 8-day periods; in January 2013 (n = 12) and February 2013 (n = 21).

Samples were tested by direct faecal culture for enumeration and by immunomagnetic separation to detect lower levels of shedding. We identified three patterns of shedding, similar to previously observed descriptions: intermittent, transient and consistent. The most commonly observed pattern was intermittent shedding and variation in the level of shedding could be large. This extreme variation is demonstrated by a heifer from which E. coli O157 could be not detected one day, was super-shedding E. coli O157 the next and was detected as shedding >100 c.f.u./g the following day. Recto-anal mucosal swab testing did not predict super-shedding in this cohort of heifers.

The variable individual patterns of shedding suggest that a common mechanism of infection may not operate within such a herd when considering previously described patterns and the inferred mechanisms. The sporadic and intermittent nature of shedding is a challenge to identifying risk factors and potential intervention strategies.

Daily variations in Escherichia coli O157 shedding patterns in a cohort of dairy heifers at pasture

Daily variations in Escherichia coli O157 shedding patterns in a cohort of dairy heifers at pasture

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 143 / Issue 07 / May 2015

  1. J. Williams, M. P. Ward, and O. P. Dhungyel