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Molecular Characterization of Escherichia coli O157 Contamination Routes in a Cattle Slaughterhouse

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In a cattle slaughterhouse, sampling was performed over a 1-week period to examine the prevalence and possible contamination routes of Escherichia coli O157. Each sampling day, swab samples were collected from the slaughterhouse environment before onset of slaughter, from the slaughterline, and from 20 successively slaughtered animals. Isolation of E. coli O157 consisted of a 6-hour enrichment followed by immunomagnetic separation and selective plating. From the 394 samples taken, 84 (21%) were positive for E. coli O157. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) of collected isolates produced 26 different profiles, from which 5 PFGE profiles carried two or more Stx genes. The combination of PFGE profiles and Stx types resulted in 32 different E. coli O157 types. E. coli O157 was found in the slaughterhouse environment before the onset of slaughter. The first two sampling days, feces and carcasses were found negative. On the third sampling day, five fecal samples and four carcasses from animals negative in the feces were positive. Hide of the anal region and the shoulder were found positive every sampling day. The shoulder hide was more than twice as contaminated as the anal region hide. Typing of different isolates from a sample showed that frequently different E. coli O157 types were presented. On sampling days 1 and 2, types present in the environment and on the hides of the slaughtered animals differed. On the third sampling day, two dominant types were found in the environment (even before the onset of slaughter), as well as on the hides, feces, and carcasses. Although examined animals originated from different farms, one (two on day 3) dominant E. coli O157 type was present on their hides each sampling day. These data indicated that (i) the progress of contamination can differ from day to day within a slaughterhouse and (ii) contact between animals after the departure from the farm can have a large effect on the spread of E. coli O157 hide contamination.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Veterinary Food Inspection, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium 2: Academic Hospital, Department of Microbiology, Free University of Brussels, Laarbeeklaan 101, 1090 Brussels, Belgium

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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