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Potential public health benefit of vaccinating cattle against Escherichia coli O157

L. Matthews, R. Reeve, D. L. Gally, J. C. Low and others

CATTLE are the main reservoir of Escherichia coli O157 and people are usually infected by consuming contaminated food or water or by coming into contact with livestock faeces. There are different strains of the bacterium, some of which cause infected cattle to shed large numbers of bacteria and are known as ‘supershedding’ strains. While two cattle vaccines are now available, they are not widely used. This study aimed to assess how many E coli O157 cases in people would be prevented by widespread cattle vaccination by studying the types of strains that infect people and the relationship between shedding density and human risk.

Information on 237 human cases of E coli O157 were taken from Health Protection Scotland's database. Over the same time period, 512 E coli O157-positive samples were taken from cowpats on Scottish farms. All samples were analysed genetically in order to assess whether they contained supershedding strains. The frequency of each type of strain was then assessed in people and cattle.

The results indicated that supershedding strains were more common …

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