October 20, 2021

Can a Cattle Vaccine Reduce Cases of Human E.coli Poisoning?

Can a cattle vaccination reduce cases of human E.coli poisoning? Researchers in Scotland think so. In fact, their recent study suggests that using E.coli vaccines in cattle, can reduce the number of human E.coli poisoning cases by 85 percent, a huge public health benefit.

cows grazingE.coli bacteria  live in the intestines of people and animals. Most kinds of E. coli are harmless, but some can cause illness if they are ingested. Each year an estimated 265,000 people in the U.S. are sickened by E.coli infections, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 36 percent of these infections are caused by the strain E.coli O157.

Beef can be contaminated with E.coli in a number of ways including slaughter. To better understand how the bacteria is transmitted from cattle to humans, the researchers in Scotland looked at shedding density in cattle. Some cattle are “supershedders” meaning they shed a lot more E.coli in their feces than other cattle do. Supershedders are more likely to pose a significant risk to humans and can can be identified with a genetic marker.

Although E.coli vaccines for cattle exist, they are not widely used. “We show that adoption of these vaccines by the livestock industry could prevent substantial numbers of human E. coli O157 cases,” the study abstract says. “A naïve evaluation based on efficacy in cattle would suggest a 50% reduction in risk; however, because the vaccine targets the major source of human risk, we predict a reduction in human cases of nearly 85 percent.”

The research team included: Louise Matthewsa, Richard Reevea, David L. Gally, J. Chris Lowd, Mark E. J. Woolhousee, Sean P. McAteer, Mary E. Locking,Margo E. Chase-Topping, Daniel T. Haydon, Lesley J. Allison, Mary F. Hanson, George J. Gunn, and Stuart W. J. Reid. The study was published in the current edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.










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