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
The family at the helm of Sterman Masser Potato Farms includes (from left) David, Keith, Helen, and Julie.
Photo credit: Rosemary Gordon
Potatoes
February 7, 2016
A Lesson In Marketing From Sterman Masser Potato Farms
Always looking for new product offerings and ways to expand, Sterman Masser Potato Farms caters to consumers. Read More
Thomas Björkman, the director of the Eastern Broccoli Project, discusses details on the challenges of broccoli production in the East.
Vegetables
February 7, 2016
The Eastern Broccoli Project Moves Forward
As acreage increases in the East, mid-sized growers seek channels to distribute their product and continue the search for varieties. Read More
Apples On Display
Fruits
February 6, 2016
Best Research Is Industry Driven [Opinion]
Like many of you, I’m not crazy about a lot of government programs. It’s not that their genesis isn’t noble; God Read More
RosBREED will have an impact on nearly all the major U.S. rosaceous crop production areas.
Fruits
February 6, 2016
RosBREED: A National Effort To Improve The Fruit Industry
The project focuses on improving disease resistance and fruit quality through better genetics and breeding. Read More
Biofungicides supplement methyl bromide alternatives
Berries
February 5, 2016
Moving Beyond Methyl Bromide With Biofungicides
Editor’s note: University of California Farm Advisor Mark Bolda will present much more information on this topic at the Biocontrols Read More
Geotextiles being installed.

Photo: Jim Willwerth
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Geotextiles Can Help Prevent Winter Grapevine Damage
Although Northeast and Midwest grape growing regions have so far been spared from extreme cold this year, the winters of Read More
The canopy of the vines that received the under-canopy sprinkler irrigation just on hot nights during heatwaves appear to be healthier than the control vines and have a higher yield.
Photo: Michael McCarthy
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Researchers Test New Method To Mitigate Vine Heat Stress
The use of evaporative cooling in vineyards during hot weather isn’t a new concept, but researchers in Australia are testing Read More
Biocontrols USA 2016 logo
Crop Protection
February 5, 2016
Register Now For Biocontrols Conference 2016 Field And Greenhouse Tour
Space is limited, so register now to attend the first-ever Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference Field and Greenhouse Tour. Following the Read More
La Crescent produces a good quality white wine with apricot-like flavor. The off-dry, sweet white wine pairs well with appetizers, seafood and chicken. La Crescent has excellent winter hardiness with moderate disease resistance that requires a standard spray program.
Grapes
February 4, 2016
Northern Grapes Project Fuels A Market For Cold-Hardy Grapes
 There’s a burgeoning market for cold-weather grapes. The Northern Grapes Project, funded in 2011 by a USDA National Institute of Read More
two glass goblets of olive oil
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s Slipping Citrus Trade?
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
The Latest
Potatoes
February 7, 2016
A Lesson In Marketing From Sterman Masse…
Always looking for new product offerings and ways to expand, Sterman Masser Potato Farms caters to consumers. Read More
Vegetables
February 7, 2016
The Eastern Broccoli Project Moves Forwa…
As acreage increases in the East, mid-sized growers seek channels to distribute their product and continue the search for varieties. Read More
Fruits
February 6, 2016
Best Research Is Industry Driven [Opinio…
Like many of you, I’m not crazy about a lot of government programs. It’s not that their genesis isn’t noble; God Read More
Fruits
February 6, 2016
RosBREED: A National Effort To Improve T…
The project focuses on improving disease resistance and fruit quality through better genetics and breeding. Read More
Berries
February 5, 2016
Moving Beyond Methyl Bromide With Biofun…
Editor’s note: University of California Farm Advisor Mark Bolda will present much more information on this topic at the Biocontrols Read More
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Geotextiles Can Help Prevent Winter Grap…
Although Northeast and Midwest grape growing regions have so far been spared from extreme cold this year, the winters of Read More
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Researchers Test New Method To Mitigate …
The use of evaporative cooling in vineyards during hot weather isn’t a new concept, but researchers in Australia are testing Read More
Crop Protection
February 5, 2016
Register Now For Biocontrols Conference …
Space is limited, so register now to attend the first-ever Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference Field and Greenhouse Tour. Following the Read More
Grapes
February 4, 2016
Northern Grapes Project Fuels A Market F…
 There’s a burgeoning market for cold-weather grapes. The Northern Grapes Project, funded in 2011 by a USDA National Institute of Read More
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s…
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Sunkist Expands Organic Portfolio
With the organic citrus sector growing three times as fast as conventional, the 123-year-old cooperative is keeping up with the times. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Syngenta OKs Buyout By ChemChina
Deal valued at more than $43 billion; Syngenta management team to stay intact. Read More
Farm Marketing
February 3, 2016
Florida Peach Marketing Order Fails
Growers don’t meet 65% approval needed for passage. Read More
Farm Management
February 3, 2016
Western Growers Launches Tech Talk Serie…
Speakers from a variety of agricultural technology areas will make presentations on a variety of topics including drone/satellite imagery and food safety software. Read More
Farm Management
February 3, 2016
Hot Topics Tackled At Mid-Atlantic Fruit…
Food safety and GMOs were two of the topics discussed on the first day of the trade show and conference. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Historic Rainfall Hampering South Florid…
El Niño express delivering floods, uncertainty for crops. Read More
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Avoid Tree Nut Cargo Theft
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® recently reported on a rash of nut thefts, in which truckloads of nuts Read More
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Tips To Help Secure A Good Beekeeper Agr…
Pollination is one of the most important aspects of almond growing, and this time of year, making sure you have Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]