Rectal content grab samples were collected from 2436 beef cattle reared on 406 beef farms in Japan between November 2007 and March 2008. STEC strains O157 and O26 were isolated from 110 (27.1%) and 7 (1.7%) farms, respectively. Farms that tested positive for STEC O157 were located in 35 out of all 47 Japanese prefectures. This indicates that STEC O157 strains are widespread on beef farms nationwide. Of the 2436 tested beef cattle, 218 (8.9%) and 10 (0.4%) had STEC strains O157 and O26 in the rectal content, respectively. The most common Shiga toxin genes detected in the isolated STEC O157 strains were: stx2calone (32.1%), stx2/stx2c(27.2%), and stx1/stx2(21.8%). Almost all of the STEC O157 and STEC O26 strains expressed Shiga toxins (Stx). Most of the STEC O157 and STEC O26 strains possessed eaeA and EHEC-hlyA. These results strongly suggest that STEC strains O157 and O26 from beef cattle would be pathogenic to humans. Therefore, it is important to reduce STEC strains O157 and O26 in beef cattle in order to prevent foodborne disease caused by STEC. The presence of dogs and/or cats on a farm was significantly (P=0.02) associated with the prevalence of STEC O157. More research is needed to clarify the role of dogs and cats. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
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