Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency report: new evidence on E. coli O157 in cattle

27 November 2018

Article: 52/4704

On Monday 26 November 2018, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published a report which provides important new evidence on E. coli O157 - a bacterium carried by cattle which can cause serious illness when it enters the food chain.

The research, which was undertaken over a four-year period by a consortium of scientists led by the Roslin Institute, the Moredun Research Institute and Scotland’s Rural College, shows that the overall prevalence of E. coli O157 in cattle is similar across Great Britain, and has remained relatively consistent in Scotland over the last decade. However, cattle in Scotland has been found to have a higher level of a certain subtype of E. coli O157 - PT21/28 - which is associated with super-shedding in cattle (the passing of large volumes of the bacteria in faeces). As this subtype is also known to cause more severe human infection, it may be that local exposure to this particular subtype is a potential factor for the rates of human E. coli O157 infection in Scotland being around three times higher than in England and Wales.

The research also trialled a vaccine, developed to limit E. coli O157 excretion from and transmission between cattle. Results indicated that the vaccine may be effective in reducing human exposure and infection from E. coli O157. However, before a vaccine can be marketed, further work is needed to assess if it is practical to be used on-farm and if it is an effective public health intervention.

The report can be accessed on the Food Standards Scotland website

Source: FSS, 26 November 2018