Submitted to: ARS Food Safety and Inspection Service Research Workshop
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: January 8, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Our understanding of the ecology of E. col is far from complete. To date, scientists have primarily focused their efforts upon the most immediate needs of the food industry and the medical community (i.e., clinical treatment, diagnostics and detection, epidemiology and meat processing technology). Much less effort has been directed towards more basic aspects of E. coli ecology. With this paper we have tried to stimulate broader consideration of other factors that may contribute to the problem. We would ask the reader to consider the evidence that cattle are a conduit for the transfer of E. coli into the food supply rather than a reservoir. This is an important distinction because it requires a research approach that is different from the traditional infectious disease model. It requires us to consider factors like livestock production practices, feed ingredient quality, manure handling, non-bovine reservoirs and more distant environmental effects. For example, we need to know more about the microbiology of by-product feed ingredients and on the storage and handling practices of these ingredients. We have reviewed several possible environmental sources for E. coli O157:H7 that have been identified by a very limited epidemiological literature (flies, manure/soil and protozoa). The role that these reservoirs play, if any, in the infectious ecology of E. coli O157:H7 is poorly defined and requires more research. These environmental models need to be tested and verified before they can be accepted as legitimate sources of this pathogenic bacteria.