Culbert noted E. coli O157 is a global problem requiring a proactive solution. "The fact that the organism does not make cattle ill presents an adoption challenge in the cattle industry," Culbert said. "At the moment, cattle producers receive no direct benefit or compensation to justify the cost of vaccination against E. coli O157. However, there is an opportunity for the cattle industry to collaborate with public health to more effectively deal with this recurring issue."
Although most E. coli strains are harmless, some such as O157 can cause severe illness and can even be fatal when ingested by humans from contaminated meat, vegetables, other food products or water.
Last fall, an E. coli O157 outbreak in the US was associated with the consumption of raw milk gouda cheese. Last November, seven cases of E. coli O157 human illness in the US were linked to the consumption of apple cider and eleven cases were linked to the consumption of contaminated food served at a Thanksgiving dinner. An outbreak last summer at a restaurant chain in Japan was traced to beef that was imported from Australia, Culbert says.
The Food Safety Division of Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. has worked with Canadian university researchers to develop and license a cattle vaccine against E. coli O157. The vaccine, which is trademarked Econiche, is meant to reduce the level of the bacterium in water, food and the environment and, in turn, reduce the potential infection of humans. It has been fully licensed in Canada since October, 2008. A conditional license is pending in the US.
Econiche has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of E. coli O157 shed into the environment by beef and dairy cattle, the company said. This organism does not cause illness in cattle, but cattle are the primary reservoir for it. Vaccination of cattle with Econiche can help reduce the risk of food and waterborne contamination with E. coli O157.
Econiche is manufactured at the company's Belleville, Ontario site where, supported by the Ontario and Canadian governments, a $25-million expansion is taking place that is expected to be completed by the end of March, 2011.
The One Health Congress is designed to focus on the disease risks and challenges brought about by the interactions between animals, humans and the environment. The goal of the Congress is to review current disease knowledge at this interface and provide information needed to more effectively manage the emerging infectious disease risks at national, regional and global levels.