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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Risk factors and dynamics of verotoxigenic Escherichia coli O157:H7 on cattle farms: An observational study combining information from questionnaires, spatial data and molecular analyses

Tamminen, Lena-Mari; Söderlund, Robert; Wilkinson, David A.; Torsein, Maria; Eriksson, Erik; Churakov, Mikhail; Dicksved, Johan; Keeling, Linda; Emanuelson, Ulf


The increasing number of human cases infected with a highly virulent type of verotoxigenic Escherichia toll (VTEC) O157:H7 in Sweden is the result of domestic transmission originating in regional clusters of infected cattle farms. To control the spread of the bacteria a comprehensive picture of infection dynamics, routes of transmission between farms and risk factors for persistence is urgently needed. The aim of the study was to investigate different aspects of the epidemiology of VTEC O157:H7 on the Swedish island of Oland by combining information from environmental sampling of VTEC O157:H7 from 80 farms with information from fanner questionnaires, spatial and molecular analyses. The farms were sampled in the spring and fall of 2014 and on four of them additional samples were collected during summer and winter. The results show a high prevalence of VTEC O157:H7 and a high proportion of strains belonging to the virulent Glade 8. Farms that became infected between samplings were all located in an area with high cattle density. The most important risk factors identified are generally associated with biosecurity and indicate that visitors travelling between farms may be important for transmission. In addition, whole genome sequencing of a subset of isolates from the four farms where additional sampling was performed revealed ongoing local transmission that cannot be observed with a lower resolution typing method. Our observations also show that VTEC O157:H7 may persist in the farm environment for extended periods of time, suggesting that specific on-farm measures to reduce environmental prevalence and spread between groups of animals may be required in these cases.


VTEC 0157; EHEC; Epidemiology; Glade 8; Transmission

Published in

Preventive Veterinary Medicine
2019, Volume: 170, article number: 104726