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Research Aims to Reduce E. coli Shed by Cattle

Michigan State University has received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find ways to reduce the amount of E. coli released by cattle, and in effect, decrease the number of foodborne illness in humans.


“More than 70,000 people become ill due to shiga toxin-producing E. coli every year,” said Roger Beachy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, in a news release.  Beachy, who visited MSU to make the announcement, added that “understanding how the bacteria contaminate water and food supplies will help prevent thousands of illnesses and improve the safety of the nation’s food.”

The project is being led by Shannon Manning, molecular biologist and epidemiologist in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at MSU, with a goal of improved detection and control of shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

“These infections are a national concern, particularly during outbreaks when public health agencies are rapidly trying to identify the sources to prevent additional infections,” said Manning, whose work is funded in part by MSU AgBioResearch. “The data generated through this project will aid in the development of STEC control methods that can be used to improve food safety.”

STEC is a leading cause of foodborne and waterborne infections, and most outbreaks are caused by fecal contamination from cattle and other ruminants. However, little is known about the factors that impact shedding from these animals.

Manning and her team of researchers will examine a number of factors, including:

— Identifying bacterial genotypes and epidemiological factors important for shedding in multiple herds.

— Comparing the composition, diversity and function of the microbial communities within the digestive tract and ruminal fluids of shedders and nonshedders.

— Determining how STEC affects the bovine immune response to infection, identifying inhibitory compounds from “nonshedding” animals and developing strategies to decrease shedding.


The research team expects to develop new ideas for direct-fed antimicrobials, vaccines, therapies and other control strategies that can reduce the frequency and level of STEC shedding. It is anticipated that this will lead to a reduction in food contamination, transmission to humans and STEC-related illnesses.

The grant was awarded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to reduce foodborne illnesses and deaths by improving the safety of the food supply, and thus reduce impacts on public health and on the national economy.

© Food Safety News
  • Steve Gilman

    Here’s ANOTHER $2.5 million in research funding designed to try and prop up ANOTHER inherently toxic industrialized food production system by narrowly targeting the symptom (massive virulent STEC production) rather than the cause (feedlot factory farms).
    Yum! — just what we need — “direct-fed antimicrobials, vaccines, therapies and other control strategies that can reduce the frequency and level of STEC shedding” — MORE toxics in our food — requiring MORE research to address those symptoms. What a growth industry!
    Meanwhile, take a look at our tax dollars at work — the lion’s share of NIFA’s publicly-funded research budget goes to tweaking symptoms and propping up the proprietary industrial agribusinesses who profit by them and is NOT going to researching causes and the sustainable alternatives that address them — like pasture systems and non genetically-engineered seeds and breeds.

  • Ever notice how yuppy dung worshipers seem always to have all the easy answers right at their fingertips? (And it always begins and ends with trashing the status quo)
    Economics, medical practice, nuclear physics, epidemiology, microbiology, brain surgery, rocket science – no problem, any of it. Just pitch some recycled manure on it and water it with their tears. Oh, and prop it up with plenty of that good SARE grant money.
    I’m torn. Out of over $6 million in grants, I can’t decide which give-away makes the least sense dollar for dollar:
    Appalachian Grown: Toward Regional Community-based Food Systems $154,030.00 or,
    Increasing Growers’ Quality of Life Through Direct Marketing $45,516.00
    That link is just North Carolina, alone…if we can piddle away over $6 million just in the Tarheel state ‘ciphering’ on foolish fantasy hobby farm claptrap to no significant effect, I guess we can spare a couple million for some real research on real issues by real scientists that will result in real product to improve the lives of real people nationwide.
    Clearly we’ve already wasted far, far too much taxpayer money on hobbyists’ dreamy “sustainable alternatives…like pasture systems”…blah, blah, blah, blahbitty blah, chaaa-chinggg!!
    Clearing up some deliberate basic misconceptions about e. coli in cattle:
    (Looking forward to your next paper on this, Bill Marler!)