Understanding the transmission dynamics of Escherichia coli O157:H7 super-shedding infections in feedlot cattle

Elizabeth M. Antaki-Zukoski, Xunde Li, Bruce Hoar, John M. Adaska, Barbara A Byrne, Edward R. Atwill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The presence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7) super-shedding cattle in feedlots has the potential to increase the overall number (bio-burden) of E. coli O157:H7 in the environment. It is important to identify factors to reduce the bio-burden of E. coli O157 in feedlots by clarifying practices associated with the occurrence of super-shedders in feedlot cattle. Methods: The objective of this study is to (1) identify host, pathogen, and management risk factors associated with naturally infected feedlot cattle excreting high concentrations of E. coli O157:H7 in their feces and (2) to determine whether the ingested dose or the specific strain of E. coli O157:H7 influences a super-shedder infection within experimentally inoculated feedlot cattle. To address this, (1) pen floor fecal samples and herd parameters were collected from four feedlots over a 9-month period, then (2) 6 strains of E. coli O157:H7, 3 strains isolated from normal shedder steers and 3 strains isolated from super-shedder steers, were inoculated into 30 one-year-old feedlot steers. Five steers were assigned to each E. coli O157:H7 strain group and inoculated with targeted numbers of 102, 104, 106, 108, and 1010 CFU of bacteria respectively. Results: In the feedlots, prevalence of infection with E. coli O157:H7 for the 890 fecal samples collected was 22.4%, with individual pen prevalence ranging from 0% to 90% and individual feedlot prevalence ranging from 8.4% to 30.2%. Three samples had E. coli O157:H7 levels greater than 104 MPN/g feces, thereby meeting the definition of super-shedder. Lower body weight at entry to the feedlot and higher daily maximum ambient temperature were associated with increased odds of a sample testing positive for E. coli O157:H7. In the experimental inoculation trial, the duration and total environmental shedding load of E. coli O157:H7 suggests that the time post-inoculation and the dose of inoculated E. coli O157:H7 are important while the E. coli O157:H7 strain and shedding characteristic (normal or supershedder) are not. Discussion: Under the conditions of this experiment, super-shedding appears to be the result of cattle ingesting a high dose of any strain of E. coli O157:H7. Therefore strategies that minimize exposure to large numbers of E. coli O157:H7 should be beneficial against the super-shedding of E. coli O157:H7 in feedlots.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12524
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Bio-burden
  • Escherichia coli O157:H7
  • Feedlot cattle
  • Ingested dose
  • Strain
  • Super-shedders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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