Ecology of Escherichia Coli O157:H7 in Commercial Dairies in Southern Alberta

J Dairy Sci. 2005 Dec;88(12):4441-51. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(05)73131-3.


Shedding of Escherichia coli O157:H7 was monitored monthly over a 1-yr period by collecting pooled fecal pats (FECAL) and manila ropes orally accessed for 4 h (ROPE) from multiple pens of cattle in 5 commercial dairies in southern Alberta, Canada. Using immunomagnetic separation, E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from cows on 4 of the dairies and from 13.5% of FECAL and 1.1% of ROPE samples. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis of XbaI- and SpeI-digested bacterial DNA of the 65 isolates produced 23 unique restriction endonuclease digestion patterns, although 92% of the isolates belonged to 3 restriction endonuclease digestion pattern clusters sharing a minimum 90% homology. Collection of positive isolates was 15 times more likely from June through September. Across dairies, peak somatic cell count occurred in July, August, September, and November. The likelihood of positive isolates was 2.6 times higher in calves and heifers compared with mature cows. This study indicates that ROPE would be of little value for the detection of E. coli O157:H7 in dairy herds unless oral contact with ROPE could be increased in mature animals. Additionally, mitigation strategies for E. coli O157:H7 should be targeted to the months of July, August, and September and toward immature animals for maximum impact. All farms displayed unique combinations of seasonality of shedding and diversity of E. coli O157:H7 subtypes. The fact that seasonal prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 largely coincided with peak somatic cell count within climatically controlled dairy barns suggests that similar environmental factors may be enhancing fecal shedding E. coli O157:H7 and the incidence of mastitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alberta
  • Animals
  • Cattle / growth & development
  • Cattle / microbiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Dairying
  • Ecology*
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Environment
  • Escherichia coli O157 / classification
  • Escherichia coli O157 / genetics
  • Escherichia coli O157 / isolation & purification*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Housing, Animal
  • Mastitis, Bovine / microbiology
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Seasons


  • DNA, Bacterial