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Vet Microbiol. 1999 Sep 29;69(4):251-63.

Prevalence and infection risks of zoonotic enteropathogenic bacteria in Swiss cow-calf farms.

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Institute of Animal Breeding, University of Berne, Switzerland.


A longitudinal study was performed in 67 larger Swiss cow-calf farms from September 1996 through November 1997. The objectives of the study were to estimate prevalence and risk factors for colonization with potentially zoonotic enteropathogenic bacteria in younger calves and in calves at weaning age. The study included data from 395 calves with three to four fecal samples each. Fecal samples were analyzed for Campylobacter spp., verotoxin producing E. coli (VTEC), Yersinia spp. and Salmonella sp. Possible environmental and individual factors associated with colonization of these agents were examined. The calves were housed indoor during the first 3 months of life (winter 1996/1997). The prevalences within this time period were: C. coli 3.4%, C. fetus 15.5%, C. hyointestinalis 9.6%, C. jejuni 38.5%, VTEC 44.3% and Yersinia spp. 2%. At the end of the grazing season the prevalences at weaning (8-10 months of age) were: C. coli 1.7%, C. fetus 4.0%, C. hyointestinalis 25.9%, C. jejuni 13.3%, VTEC 38.2% and Yersinia spp. 0%. No salmonellae were present at any time of the study. The prevalences of C. jejuni and VTEC increased significantly within the first 3 months of life, whereas C. hyointestinalis decreased. None of the environmental factors such as housing or feeding had any consistent influences on colonization by the bacteria studied. VTEC, Campylobacter spp. and Yersinia spp. should probably be considered as normal inhabitants of the bovine intestinal tract. However, as they represent a source of gastrointestinal infections in humans, management factors limiting intestinal colonization of these bacteria should be considered in cow-calf operations.

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