21 March 1997

Project to study E coli

MAFF has awarded a three-year grant to look at factors influencing the production of E coli organisms in cattle to the Scottish Agricultural College.

Scientists will set up a case control study, looking at herds which could be susceptible to carrying the E coli O157 organism.

Barti Synge, SAC E coli project leader, said cattle involved in the survey would be tested at monthly intervals for a year, with particular reference paid to the type of housing, feed and calving conditions.

"We will try to follow the animals right through to slaughter to see what factors influence the shedding of the E coli organism in the faeces."

The Scottish Office, which funded a four-year SAC project into E coli, is also looking to see if it can provide cash for a definitive study on the prevalence of E coli 0157 in farm livestock.

Research from the four-year project found a fairly low prevalence of the organism in cattle. Just 0.25% of 5000 cattle screened for E coli proved positive, though the distribution pattern was not confined to any part of Scotland, explained Mr Synge.n

Tony McDougal