Farmers & Researchers Working Together to Improve Safety and Quality of Cattle

Contributed by Nguyet Kong

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterium that is naturally found in healthy humans and animals gut, but there is some E. coli that are bad and cause disease. E. coli O157 is a common type of infection that cause people to get sick due to the Shiga-toxin that the bacteria produced. Symptoms can range from diarrhea, fever, cramps and vomiting with the illness ranging from mild to severe. Young children can die from E. coli infections. Animals that spread E. coli to humans include cows and other farm animals. Most people become infected with E. coli through contaminated food such as undercooked meat or unpasteurized milk, so E. coli can pass to people.

In a recent study from Michigan State University found that cow under stress from hot weather and energy loss from milk production was more likely to shed Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC), which is a type of E. coli that cause serious sickness in humans. This finding provide an opportunity for prevention practices to reduce the spread of E. coli, which cause ~100,000 illness, 3000 hospitalizations and 90 deaths yearly in the United States. This study involved 6 cattle farmers with over 1000 cattle in the Michigan area, it helps bring awareness to improve the safety and quality of the food that is being produced.

Venegas-Vargas C, Henderson S, Khare A, Mosci RE, Lehnert JD, Singh P, Ouellette L, Norby B, Funk JA, Rust S, Bartlett P, Grooms D, Manning SD. 2016. Factors associated with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli shedding in dairy and beef cattle. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 Jun 24. pii: AEM.00829-16

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