Canadian Food Safety Alliance

Canadian Food Safety Alliance

September 18, 2013 12:55 ET

New Study Finds Human E. coli O157 Infections Could Drop 85% by Vaccinating Cattle: CFSA

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Sept. 18, 2013) - Today the Canadian Food Safety Alliance (CFSA) applauded a new study by the University of Glasgow, which found that vaccinating cattle against the E. coli O157 bacterium could cut the number of human cases of infection by 85%. This latest research confirms the findings of a 2012 white paper, which found that vaccinating cattle against E. coli O157 would result in significant economic savings in Canada because E. coli O157 illness is estimated to cost the Canadian economy almost $404 million per year.

"This latest study is further evidence that vaccinating cattle could drastically reduce E. coli O157 human infections and the related healthcare costs in Canada. This is the only country in the world with a fully licensed vaccine for the immunization of cattle that reduces the shedding of the dangerous E. coli O157 pathogen at the source," said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Canadian Food Safety Alliance.

E. coli O157 infections cause severe gastrointestinal illness and even death. Humans become infected by consuming contaminated food and water that has come into contact with livestock manure. Cattle are the main reservoir for the E. coli O157 bacterium.

A team of researchers at the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Veterinary College, Scotland's Rural College, Health Protection Scotland, and the Scottish E. coli O157/VTEC Reference Laboratory conducted this latest study.

The institutions researched veterinary, human and molecular data to examine what impact vaccinating cattle would have on the transmission of E. coli O157 from cattle to humans. They found that vaccines against the bacteria reduce "super-shedding", which is when extremely high numbers of bacteria are excreted from cattle.

This finding enabled researchers to predict that vaccinating cattle could reduce human cases of E. coli O157 infection by nearly 85%. These figures provide strong support for the adoption of vaccines by the livestock industry.

"This finding confirms that a vaccine based on-farm prevention program would be a logical addition in the fight against this dangerous pathogen," said Baker. "This Scottish study certainly raises questions about whether the recent E. coli O157 outbreak in British Columbia, Canada from contaminated raw milk cheese, which has killed one and sickened fourteen, could have been prevented," added Mr. Baker.

In 2012, a white paper examined the cost of E. coli O157 infections to the Canadian economy. According to the modeling, which used data from the National Notifiable Disease Registry, 22,329 cases of E. coli O157 infections occur in Canada annually costing $26.7 million in a combination of medical costs, lost productivity and premature death. The estimated annual cost of the long-term health outcomes attributed to an E. coli O157 infection was a further $213 million in direct medical costs and $163 million in lost productivity. The study's model indicates that the estimated total cost of primary and secondary illness in Canada caused by E. coli infection to be almost $404 million per year.

The Canadian Food Safety Alliance is committed to protecting the public health by promoting a prevention program that reduces the human health risks associated with E. coli O157 contamination.

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