Method Found to Stop E. Coli in Cattle

DALLAS, May 18 (UPI) — U.S. microbiologists say they have identified a process that might be able to help prevent outbreaks of a food-borne illness caused by E. coli in cattle.

Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said they interfered with a genetic sensing mechanism that allows the E. coli strain known as enterohemorrhagic O157:H7, or EHEC, to form colonies within cattle, causing the bacteria to die before reaching the animals’ recto-anal junction — the primary site of colonization. Most other strains of E. coli gather in the colon.

“We’re diminishing colonization by not letting EHEC go where it needs to go efficiently,” said Dr. Vanessa Sperandio, associate professor of microbiology and senior author of the study. “If we can find a way to prevent these bacteria from ever colonizing in cattle, it’s possible that we can have a real impact on human disease.

Sperandio said the finding is important because an estimated 70 percent to 80 percent of U.S. cattle herds carry EHEC. Although EHEC can be a deadly pathogen to humans, the bacterium is part of cattle’s normal gastrointestinal flora.

The findings are to be reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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