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Epidemiol Infect. 2002 Aug;129(1):163-72.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection in cows and calves in a beef cattle herd in Alberta, Canada.

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Health Canada, Animal Diseases Research Institute, Lethbridge, Alberta.


Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection of cows and calves in a naturally-infected beef cattle herd in Alberta, Canada, was investigated over 2 years, encompassing two calf production cycles. In both years of the study, E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from the faeces of cows shortly after but not before parturition in late winter: 6/38 (16%) in 1996 and 13/50 (26%) in 1997. At < 1 week post-partum, 13/52 (25%) calves born in 1997 were shedding the organism. Faecal shedding of E. coli O157:H7 by cows and calves continued over the 7 weeks that they were in the calving pens, with the organism being isolated from the faeces of 2-18% of cows and 23-26% of calves during this period. Five weeks after they were moved onto a native grass pasture, all the calves and all but one cow in 1997 had ceased shedding the organism. When the calves were weaned in the fall, E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from the faeces of 0-1.5% of the calves 1 week prior to weaning and from 6-14% of the calves within 2 weeks after weaning. Parturition, calving pens and weaning appear to be important factors in maintaining E. coli O157:H7 infections in this beef cattle herd. Isolates from cows and calves during the immediate post-partum period were mostly of the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) type of E. coli O157:H7. Similarly, at weaning a common PFGE type of E. coli O157:H7, which differed slightly from the post-partum PFGE type, was isolated from the calves. These typing data suggest a common source of infection for the animals as well as demonstrate clonal turnover of resident populations of this pathogen.

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