Escherichia coli O157 : H7 and Cryptosporidium parvum infections of man have been associated with direct contact with small ruminants. Colostrum protects neonates against gastrointestinal pathogens, and orphan lambs, which are common on petting farms, may be deprived of this protection. In a recent study, it was demonstrated that high shedding of E. coli O157 : H7 by an 8-week-old goat kid was associated with coincidental C. parvum infection. Furthermore, both pathogens were co-located in the distal gastrointestinal tract. It was hypothesized that colostrum deprivation and pre-infection with C. parvum predisposed young ruminants to colonization and increased shedding of E. coli O157 : H7. To test this, 21 lambs 5 weeks of age were divided into four groups as follows: (A) colostrum-deprived and inoculated with E. coli O157 : H7, (B) colostrum-deprived and inoculated with C. parvum and then E. coli O157 : H7, (C) conventionally reared and inoculated with E. coli O157 : H7, (D) conventionally reared and inoculated with C. parvum and then E. coli O157 : H7. C. parvum was detected between 8 and 12 days post-inoculation in most of the infected lambs. At 24 h post-inoculation with E. coli O157 : H7, all lambs were shedding between 5 x 10(4) and 5 x 10(7) c.f.u. E. coli O157 : H7 per gram of faeces. E. coli O157 : H7 was shed in higher numbers in the groups pre-inoculated with C. parvum, whether conventionally reared or colostrum-deprived. Interestingly, for the colostrum-deprived lambs on day 3, a significant difference in shedding of E. coli O157 : H7 was observed (P = 0.038), with the lambs inoculated with E. coli alone yielding higher counts than those pre-inoculated with C. parvum. From day 15 onwards, shedding of E. coli O157 : H7 was highest from the colostrum-deprived C. parvum-infected lambs, then (in descending order of shedding) the colostrum-deprived lambs, the conventionally reared lambs infected with C. parvum, and the conventionally reared animals. In total, four animals were euthanized, two at 24 h and two at 96 h post inoculation with E. coli O157 : H7 (two conventionally reared and two colostrum-deprived). All animals euthanized were from groups pre-inoculated with C. parvum prior to challenge with E. coli O157 : H7. On examination of tissues, in three of the four animals examined, multifocal attaching and effacing lesions were observed in the caecum, colon, rectum and at the recto-anal junction, and were confirmed by immunohistochemistry to be associated with E. coli O157 : H7.
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