E. Coli Not Common In Salinas Wildlife

The disease-causing bacterium E. coli O157:H7 is present but rare in some wildlife species of California’s agriculturally rich Central Coast region, an area often referred to as the nation’s “salad bowl,” reports a team or researchers led by a UC-Davis scientist.

The researchers, who are nearing completion of a massive field study to help identify potential sources of E. coli O157:H7 near Central Coast farms, presented their findings Monday during the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego. They reported finding occasional E. coli O157:H7 infections in fecal samples of wildlife species common to the area, including cowbirds, coyotes, crows, mice. and feral pigs.

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that farmers in this region continue to follow “good agricultural practices,” a set of accepted, on-farm procedures designed to protect crops from contamination during production and harvest (http://ucgaps.ucdavis.edu/).

The study was spurred by a 2006 nationwide E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to fresh, bagged spinach grown in California; the outbreak resulted in 205 reported illnesses and three deaths.

“The study helps us better understand the possible risk of crop contamination from wildlife and allows us to compare that to the risk of contamination from other possible sources such as livestock and irrigation water,” said lead study author Michele Jay-Russell, a veterinarian at UC-Davis’ Western Institute for Food Safety and Security.

“We are sharing this data with the produce industry, regulators, and conservation groups to help improve prevention strategies that protect public health and preserve native wildlife populations and their habitats,” she said.

E. coli O157:H7 poses a serious human health threat, commonly causing abdominal cramps and diarrhea, sometimes bloody. Severe infections may be require hospitalization and result in kidney damage and even death. People most at risk for serious complications include young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

From 2008 through 2009, the team collected and tested 1,133 fecal samples from wild birds and mammals on 38 private properties in Monterey, San Benito and San Luis Obispo counties in California. All three counties are home to farms that grow fresh spinach, lettuce and other produce.

Laboratory tests revealed that E. coli O157:H7 was present in samples from two cowbirds, two coyotes, five crows, one deer mouse and 10 feral pigs. Samples from deer, opossums, raccoons, skunks, ground squirrels and other bird and mouse species all tested negative for the bacterium.

Robert Mandrell, principle investigator and research leader from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, said that the discovery of a low level of E. coli O157: H7 among Central Coast wildlife was somewhat surprising.

“The fact that we have identified two bird species with an incidence of E. coli O157:H7 of more than 3%, feral swine with about a 4% incidence and several coyotes and rodents that tested positive for O157:H7 suggests there are at least several sources of pathogen movement in this region,” Mandrell said.

“We have no evidence that the concentration of the pathogen was high in the feces of the animals that tested positive, so the significance of wildlife as a source of direct contamination associated with outbreaks remains unclear,” he said.

Mandrell said the researchers are comparing the genetic makeup of the E. coli O157: H7 strains found in wildlife to that of strains isolated from other sources including cattle, soil and water. They hope these comparisons will help them to better assess the movement of the bacteria in this agriculturally important region.

Following up on these findings, the study team is evaluating other potential wildlife sources of E. coli O157:H7, including amphibians and reptiles, and is conducting focused research to refine best practices that promote appropriate management to protect both food safety and the environment.

The collaborative research team included microbiologists and epidemiologists from the Agricultural Research Service and the Western Regional Research Center and Wildlife Services, both of the USDA; the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security and the Western Center for Food Safety, both at UC-Davis; and the University of California Cooperative Extension. The study was paid for by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the USDA.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
BerriesWhy You Should Be Growing Black Raspberries
January 27, 2015
Amazing health benefits for consumers and production and marketing benefits for the grower make this berry a must-consider option for your operation. Read More
Apples & PearsThe Dark side of Honeycrisp
January 27, 2015
Growers say there’s a love-hate relationship with America’s darling apple. Read More
Apples & PearsExpanded Market Access For U.S. Grown Apples To China
January 26, 2015
Agreement expected to boost apple exports by $100 million per year. Read More
CitrusNominees Sought For Florida Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award
January 26, 2015
Honor recognizes those developing and adopting environmentally innovative farming practices. Read More
CitrusIncreased Global Trade Opportunity Equals New Threats For Crops [Opinion]
January 26, 2015
Despite expanding business abroad, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says he's confident in the protocols in place to prevent entry of invasive pests and disease. Read More
CitrusShopping For UAVs? Here Are 2 To Consider
January 25, 2015
Check out a couple of high-flying options from Altavian. Read More
OrangesScientists Center On Sweet Spot For Processed Oranges
January 24, 2015
Unique approaches and techniques being employed to sustain and squeeze more out of critical research. Read More
BerriesIf You Could Plant Any Type Of Fruit, Consider A Caneberry [Opinion]
January 23, 2015
Raspberries or a blackberries present some berry good options. Read More
NutsNew Nut Industry Equipment
January 23, 2015
These new products are designed to make a nut grower's life easier. Read More
FruitsJiffy Pumped To Introduce New Produce Propagation System
January 23, 2015
PreGro concept to make its debut at Fruit Logistica. Read More
The Latest
BerriesWhy You Should Be Growing Black Raspberries
January 27, 2015
Amazing health benefits for consumers and production and marketing benefits for the grower make this berry a must-consider option for your operation. Read More
Apples & PearsThe Dark side of Honeycrisp
January 27, 2015
Growers say there’s a love-hate relationship with America’s darling apple. Read More
Apples & PearsExpanded Market Access For U.S. Grown Apples To China
January 26, 2015
Agreement expected to boost apple exports by $100 million per year. Read More
CitrusNominees Sought For Florida Agricultural Environmental …
January 26, 2015
Honor recognizes those developing and adopting environmentally innovative farming practices. Read More
CitrusIncreased Global Trade Opportunity Equals New Threats F…
January 26, 2015
Despite expanding business abroad, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says he's confident in the protocols in place to prevent entry of invasive pests and disease. Read More
CitrusShopping For UAVs? Here Are 2 To Consider
January 25, 2015
Check out a couple of high-flying options from Altavian. Read More
OrangesScientists Center On Sweet Spot For Processed Oranges
January 24, 2015
Unique approaches and techniques being employed to sustain and squeeze more out of critical research. Read More
BerriesIf You Could Plant Any Type Of Fruit, Consider A Canebe…
January 23, 2015
Raspberries or a blackberries present some berry good options. Read More
NutsNew Nut Industry Equipment
January 23, 2015
These new products are designed to make a nut grower's life easier. Read More
FruitsJiffy Pumped To Introduce New Produce Propagation Syste…
January 23, 2015
PreGro concept to make its debut at Fruit Logistica. Read More
Apples & PearsSurvey: Positive Indicators For Biocontrols In U.S. Hor…
January 22, 2015
Preliminary results of a survey conducted in December 2014 of more than 850 readers across six Meister Media Worldwide titles Read More
CitrusAsian Citrus Psyllid Marches North In California Citrus…
January 22, 2015
Part of one of the richest agricultural areas in the U.S., Fresno County, has been quarantined. Read More
Apples & PearsReal-World Solutions Highlight First Biocontrols 2015 C…
January 22, 2015
Topping the inaugural event's marquee are presentations on “Driving Crop Quality and Productivity Using Biocontrols” by representatives from two of the largest produce growing organizations in the country. Read More
Food SafetyStill Plenty On The Plate Regarding Food Safety Moderni…
January 22, 2015
Almost two years after originally being proposed, four revised rules are still being picked over. Read More
MarketingFlorida Citrus Commission Probes Federal Marketing Orde…
January 21, 2015
Meeting to be scheduled for March to vet possibilities. Read More
Insect ControlExceptional Care Needed When Taking On Common Blossom T…
January 21, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this insect pest of vegetables. Read More
VegetablesTakeaways From The 2015 Empire State Producers Expo
January 20, 2015
From crop protection pointers to potato breeding, there was no shortage of learning opportunities at the New York show. Read More
NutsNo More California Walnuts For China
January 20, 2015
Although China stopped buying California walnuts, exports to India are on the rise. Read More