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J Food Prot. 2016 Mar;79(3):421-31. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-15-368.

Prevalence and Level of Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli in Culled Dairy Cows at Harvest.

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School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583, USA.
Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis, Tulare, California 93274, USA; Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska 68933, USA.
College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA.
School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583, USA.


The primary objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and level of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145 (collectively EHEC-6) plus EHEC O157 in fecal, hide, and preintervention carcass surface samples from culled dairy cows. Matched samples (n = 300) were collected from 100 cows at harvest and tested by a culture-based method and two molecular methods: NeoSEEK STEC (NS) and Atlas STEC EG2 Combo. Both the culture and NS methods can be used to discriminate among the seven EHEC types (EHEC-7), from which the cumulative prevalence was inferred, whereas the Atlas method can discriminate only between EHEC O157 and non-O157 EHEC, without discrimination of the serogroup. The EHEC-7 prevalence in feces, hides, and carcass surfaces was 6.5, 15.6, and 1.0%, respectively, with the culture method and 25.9, 64.9, and 7.0%, respectively, with the NS method. With the Atlas method, the prevalence of non-O157 EHEC was 29.1, 38.3, and 28.0% and that of EHEC O157 was 29.1, 57.0, and 3.0% for feces, hides, and carcasses, respectively. Only two samples (a hide sample and a fecal sample) originating from different cows contained quantifiable EHEC. In both samples, the isolates were identified as EHEC O157, with 4.7 CFU/1,000 cm(2) in the hide sample and 3.9 log CFU/g in the fecal sample. Moderate agreement was found between culture and NS results for detection of EHEC O26 (κ = 0.58, P < 0.001), EHEC O121 (κ = 0.50, P < 0.001), and EHEC O157 (κ = 0.40, P < 0.001). No significant agreement was observed between NS and Atlas results or between culture and Atlas results. Detection of an EHEC serogroup in fecal samples was significantly associated with detection of the same EHEC serogroup in hide samples for EHEC O26 (P = 0.001), EHEC O111 (P = 0.002), EHEC O121 (P < 0.001), and EHEC-6 (P = 0.029) based on NS detection and for EHEC O121 (P < 0.001) based on detection by culture. This study provides evidence that non-O157 EHEC are ubiquitous on hides of culled dairy cattle and that feces are an important source of non-O157 EHEC hide contamination.

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