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J Food Prot. 2003 Nov;66(11):1972-7.

Incidence, duration, and prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 fecal shedding by feedlot cattle during the finishing period.

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Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, P.O. Box 830905, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0905, USA.


The objective was to describe variability in prevalence, incidence, and duration of fecal shedding of naturally occurring E. coli O157:H7 by a group of feedlot cattle over time. One hundred steers, randomly assigned to 10 pens, were fed a high-concentrate finishing diet for 136 days (19 weeks). Rectal feces from each animal were tested for E. coli O157:H7 every week for 19 weeks. E. coli O157:H7 was recovered from each animal that completed the study and was detected from at least one animal every week. Average pen prevalence of cattle shedding E. coli O157:H7 varied significantly over time (P < 0.0001) and across pens (P < 0.0001), ranging from 1 to 80%. Pairwise comparisons of mean pen prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 between weeks and estimation of the predicted probability of an incident case of E. coli O157:H7 over time allowed the definition of three distinct phases--namely, the preepidemic, epidemic, and postepidemic periods. Average pen prevalence varied significantly over time (P < 0.01) and across pens (P < 0.001) for all time periods. The odds of an incident case were significantly greater during epidemic and postepidemic periods relative to the preepidemic period (P = 0.0002 and P = 0.03, respectively). Duration of infection was significantly longer for first or second infections that began during epidemic or postepidemic periods relative to the preepidemic period (P < 0.001). Both incidence and duration of shedding peaked during the epidemic period. Pen-level prevalence of cattle shedding E. coli O157:H7 was affected by both incidence and duration of shedding and could be explained by time- or pen-dependent risk factors, or both.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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