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Fecal Shedding of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in North Dakota Feedlot Cattle in the Fall and Spring

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Cattle are an important reservoir of Escherichia coli O157:H7, which can lead to contamination of food and water, and subsequent human disease. E. coli O157:H7 shedding in cattle has been reported as seasonal, with more animals shedding during summer and early fall than during winter. North Dakota has relatively cold weather, especially in winter and early spring, compared with many other regions of the United States. The objective was to assess fecal shedding of E. coli O157: H7 in North Dakota feedlot cattle over the fall, winter, and early spring. One hundred forty-four steers were assigned randomly to 24 pens on arrival at the feedlot. Samples of rectal feces were obtained from each steer four times (October and November 2003, and March and April 2004) during finishing. On arrival (October 2003), 2 (1.4%) of 144 cattle were shedding E. coli O157:H7. The shedding increased significantly to 10 (6.9%) of 144 after 28 days (November 2003), to 76 (53%) of 143 at the third sampling (March 2004), and dropped significantly to 30 (21%) of 143 at the fourth (last) sampling (March 2004) before slaughter. Unfortunately, we were unable to sample the cattle during winter because of the extreme weather conditions. Sampling time significantly (P < 0.0001) influenced variability in E. coli O157:H7 shedding, whereas herd (P = 0.08) did not. The prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 shedding in North Dakota steers in fall and early spring was comparable to what has been reported in other parts of the United States with relatively warmer weather. Further research into E. coli O157:H7 shedding patterns during extreme weather such as North Dakota winters is warranted in order to fully assess the seasonal effect on the risk level of this organism.

Document Type: Short Communication

Affiliations: 1: Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences, North Dakota State University, 1523 Centennial Boulevard, Fargo, North Dakota 58105-5406, USA 2: Department of Animal and Range Sciences, North Dakota State University, 100 Hultz Hall, P.O. Box 5727, Fargo, North Dakota 58105-5727, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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