Researchers at Kansas State University have found that a commercial vaccine for cattle can reduce levels of Escherichia coli by more than 50% in feedlot cattle.

Dave Renter, DVM, PhD, Kansas state University, says the vaccine was used in a commercial feedlot setting to mimic real-life conditions. The researchers also used only two doses of the vaccine instead of the three-dose regimen it is labeled for since the practicality of vaccinating cattle three times in the feedlot is low.

“It’s not just a question of whether we can demonstrate efficacy – the ability to produce the desired effect – under any circumstances,” Renter says. “It’s can we get a desired effect by using the product in a way that it may be practically implemented in the field?  In some production systems using three doses may be possible.  In others it may not be. Would we rather have those producers not use the product at all, or use two doses?  Tools aren’t very useful if they stay on the shelf and we showed this tool could be used to produce desirable effects with just two doses and within a commercial production setting.”   

Using a two-dose regimen instead of three doses can also lead to significant cost savings when implementing this program on a feedlot.   

Though E. coli O157:H7 does not affect cattle, it can cause foodborne disease in humans when shed by cattle. The vaccine helps prevent or reduce that shedding.

Veterinarians and producers are already involved in pre-harvest food safety programs, Renter says, including adhering to residue avoidance plans and Beef Quality Assurance guidelines, which contribute to pre-harvest food safety programs. 

“It may be a natural progression to include mechanisms to reduce specific food-borne pathogens such as E. coli O157 or Salmonella. Veterinarians have an opportunity to become more involved in pre-harvest food safety programs through a variety of mechanisms related to implementation, verification, auditing and other potential steps in the process.  Veterinarians are extremely well positioned to provide producers services related to pre-harvest food safety, just as they consult with their clients on herd health or nutrition programs.”

Other Kansas State University researchers involved include T.G. Nagaraja, university distinguished professor of microbiology; Nora Bello, assistant professor of statistics; Charley Cull, doctoral student in pathobiology, Oakland, Neb.; and Zachary Paddock, doctoral student in pathobiology, Manhattan. Abram Babcock, an August 2010 Kansas State University doctoral graduate, also was involved in the research.

Read the full press release from Kansas State University on this research here.