Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) are a major cause of haemorrhagic colitis and haemolytic uraemic syndrome in humans. E. coli O157:H7 is the most common serotype associated with the disease in Scotland, with rates of disease consistently higher in this country than the rest of the UK. While direct environmental exposure to livestock and their faeces is of particular significance in infection, foodborne outbreaks (most commonly linked to contaminated meat and dairy products) remain a risk.
Previous studies have reported that diet could influence the concentration of E.coli O157 shed by sheep. Pilot work showed that sheep fed on root crops/silage/barley in the winter/early spring did not shed E.coli O157 at high concentrations. Therefore, the modification of diet could be a practical, cost effective intervention strategy for reducing shedding of VTEC by sheep, which has the potential to lead to a reduction in levels of the pathogen at slaughter.
This study looked at the effect of changing feed for ruminants to reduce shedding of Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) and thus reduce the risk of disease in humans, notably haemorrahagic colitis and haemolytic uraemic syndrome.
This project is a three year postgraduate studentship co-funded by the Food Standards Agency in Scotland with the University of Aberdeen, Quality Meat Scotland and the National Farmers Union Scotland. The studentship will recruit farms in North East Scotland to take part in the study to investigate the potential of reducing E.coli O157 numbers shed by farm animals through the feeding of root crops. The study will also provide comprehensive data on shedding patterns and multi loci VNTR analysis profiles of E.coli O157 to identify any relevant links to human infection.