Objective: To determine the prevalence of fecal shedding of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with access to cattle pastures.
Design: Survey study.
Sample population: 212 fecal samples from free ranging white-tailed deer.
Procedure: Fresh feces were collected on multiple pastures from 2 farms in north central Kansas between September 1997 and April 1998. Escherichia coli O157:H7 was identified by bacterial culture and DNA-based methods.
Results: Escherichia coli O157:H7 was identified in 2.4% (5/212) of white-tailed deer fecal samples.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: There is considerable interest in the beef industry in on-farm control of E coli O157:H7 to reduce the risk of this pathogen entering the human food chain. Results of our study suggest that the design of programs for E coli O157:H7 control in domestic livestock on pasture will need to account for fecal shedding in free-ranging deer. In addition, the results have implications for hunters, people consuming venison, and deer-farming enterprises.