Assessing the effect of interventions on the risk of cattle and sheep carrying Escherichia coli O157:H7 to the abattoir using a stochastic model

Prev Vet Med. 2007 Apr 16;79(1):32-45. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2006.11.007. Epub 2007 Jan 3.


Escherichia coli O157:H7 persists in being a threat to food safety. The mechanisms behind the spread of E. coli O157:H7 on the farm are complex and poorly understood. The objective of this study was to apply a Monte Carlo model, constructed to simulate the propagation of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle and sheep on the farm, to both test the effect of different interventions on the risk of animals carrying E. coli O157:H7 to the abattoir and to develop understanding of the underlying processes, including the identification of areas that could benefit from further research. An overview of the model including key assumptions is given. The output statistics from batches of 100 runs of the model were collected. From the model output, a cumulative frequency distribution of the prevalence and specific shedding level for the groups of cattle or sheep being sent to the abattoir were generated. Stochastic dominance was used to compare the results of the model outputs. Using the shorthand that "risk" means the likelihood of carrying E. coli O157:H7 to the abattoir, key conclusions from the study included: mixing sheep and cattle increases the risk in both groups; merging groups of animals of the same species into larger groups increases the risk substantially; increasing stocking density increases the risk independently of group size; decreasing the group size decreases the E. coli O157:H7 prevalence independently of stocking density; a very high level of barn hygiene reduces the risk; a shorter time between spreading farmyard manure and grazing and an increased background level of E. coli O157:H7 in the model increases the risk. The background level could be influenced by the presence of wild animals carrying the organism. The parameters to which the model is most sensitive are those related to transmission from grass and enclosures to animals, pathogen survival on grass, in slurry and in barns and contact between animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abattoirs*
  • Animal Husbandry / methods
  • Animals
  • Carrier State / epidemiology
  • Carrier State / transmission
  • Carrier State / veterinary*
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cattle Diseases / transmission*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / transmission
  • Escherichia coli Infections / veterinary*
  • Escherichia coli O157 / isolation & purification*
  • Food Contamination / prevention & control
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Population Density
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / epidemiology
  • Sheep Diseases / transmission*
  • Species Specificity
  • Stochastic Processes