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Prev Vet Med. 2007 Aug 16;80(4):287-305. Epub 2007 May 3.

Listeria monocytogenes fecal shedding in dairy cattle shows high levels of day-to-day variation and includes outbreaks and sporadic cases of shedding of specific L. monocytogenes subtypes.

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Department of Food Science, 412 Stocking Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Fecal shedding of Listeria monocytogenes poses a risk for contamination of animal feed and agricultural environments and raw food at the pre-harvest stages of food production. To be able to reduce these risks it is critical to improve understanding of the epidemiology of L. monocytogenes shedding in feces. The objective of this study was to assess the daily variability of fecal shedding and its association with individual animal (lactation number and the day of current lactation) and environmental (feed) risk factors. That was achieved by application of longitudinal daily sample collection in a herd of dairy cattle and molecular characterization of isolated L. monocytogenes. Fecal samples (25) and silage samples (2) were collected daily during two 2-week periods and one 5-day period. L. monocytogenes was isolated from 255 out of 825 (31%) fecal samples on 24 out of 33 (73%) days, and from 25 out of 66 (38%) silage samples on 16 out of 33 (48%) days. Ninety-four percent of cows excreted L. monocytogenes in feces at least once during the study period. Our data analyses indicated that (i) the prevalence and incidence risk of L. monocytogenes fecal shedding in cattle vary considerably over time, from 0 to 100%, and both are associated with contamination of silage, (ii) L. monocytogenes fecal shedding in cattle could occur as part of an outbreak or as an isolated sporadic case, (iii) L. monocytogenes subtypes associated with human infections are commonly isolated from cattle feces and silage, and (iv) a single cow can harbor more than one L. monocytogenes subtype on any given day. Although limited to a single dairy cattle herd, these findings provide a significant advancement in the understanding of the epidemiology of L. monocytogenes fecal shedding in dairy cattle.

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