The potential for the control of Escherichia coli O157 in farm animals

S H Duncan, I R Booth, Harry James Flint, C S Stewart

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The presence of Escherichia coli O157 in the faeces of farm animals appears to provide a primary route for human infection, either through physical contact or by contamination of the food chain. Controlling the survival and proliferation of this pathogen in the ruminant gut could offer a measure of protection in the short term, and ultimately complement alternative biotechnological based solutions. Normally, E. coli is greatly outnumbered in the ruminant gut by anaerobic bacteria, producers of weak acids inhibitory to the growth of this species. Withdrawal of feed prior to animal slaughter reduces the concentration of these acids in the gut and may be accompanied by the proliferation of E. roll. There are conflicting reports concerning the effects of changes in the ruminant diet upon faecal shedding of E. coli O157. It is contended that it is important to identify animal husbandry methods or feed additives that may be accompanied by an increased risk of proliferation of this pathogen. Greater understanding of the mechanisms involved in bacterial survival in the presence of weak acids, in the interactions between E. coli and other gut bacteria, and of the effects of some antibacterial plant secondary plant compounds on E. coli, could lead to the development of novel control methods.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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