Prevalence and molecular characterization of Escherichia coli O157:H7 by multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis in three sheep farming operations in California

J Food Prot. 2011 Sep;74(9):1413-21. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-10-529.


A year-long study was conducted to determine the fecal prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in three sheep ranches. Strain diversity and persistence were compared with multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Ranch C, a feedlot, consisted of young sheep raised predominantly on a high-grain diet. The other two sites consisted of sheep raised on native pasture and a combination of native and irrigated pasture. Forty fecal samples were collected every month from each ranch. Samples were examined for E. coli O157:H7 by immunomagnetic separation and culture of the magnetic beads onto selective media. Detection of virulence markers in positive isolates was determined by PCR. E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from 100 (22.7%) of 440 fecal samples collected from ranch C. On ranch B, 9 (1.9%) of the 480 fecal samples were positive for the pathogen, while none of the samples from ranch A were positive. On ranch C, the odds of detecting E. coli O157:H7 was 3.2 times greater during the warmer months compared with the cooler months of the year. There was no association between days spent in the feedlot and fecal prevalence of the pathogen (P = 0.62). Most multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis types were isolated only once from ranch C (14 of 23), but several strains were isolated over 4 to 6 months, often in many intervening negative months. This study revealed that the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 can be high in some sheep ranches in California, especially in feedlots where young sheep are fed predominantly high-grain rations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Husbandry / methods
  • Animals
  • California / epidemiology
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Escherichia coli Infections / epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / veterinary
  • Escherichia coli O157 / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli O157 / isolation & purification*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Immunomagnetic Separation
  • Prevalence
  • Seasons
  • Sheep* / microbiology
  • Tandem Repeat Sequences
  • Virulence Factors


  • Virulence Factors