In February, 2009, The United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted a conditional license to
Epitopix, LLC for America’s first E. coli O157 vaccine for cattle . http://www.epitopix.com/news_display.aspx?id=45
A feedlot efficacy study demonstrated the
effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing E.
coli O157:H7 prevalence in cattle by 85percent. The company is
conducting additional efficacy and potency studies in cooperation in an
effort to obtain a full license.
The Epitopix technology is not a
traditional vaccine and it does not completely eliminate E. coli O157:H7 in
cattle. It works by reducing the availability of iron (a nutrient required
by bacteria for survival) by stimulating immunity against the cell-surface
proteins that facilitate iron acquisition.
A reduction in the incidence and
levels of E. coli O157:H7 in live cattle could dramatically
impact the effectiveness of interventions applied before and during the
slaughter process. The problem of E. coli O157:H7 worsens during the
summer months. One reason for this seasonal effect is that some cattle may
enter the food chain with higher levels of microbiological contamination
during the warmer months. These
cattle may have excessively high levels of E. coli O157:H7
that overwhelm current slaughter based interventions, resulting in
contamination that makes it through the process. If the vaccine reduces or
eliminates individual animals with excessive levels of contamination,
interventions will be more effective in controlling E. coli
The vaccine could act as an
important adjunct to current interventions and also pave the way for
additional technologies (i.e. post-chill carcass pasteurization) that when
combined, could result in an integrated process that virtually eliminates
the risk of E. coli O157:H7 on beef carcasses and in beef products.
Another food safety advantage
associated with the vaccine is that it would reduce environmental sources
of E. coli O157:H7 associated with cattle production.
There have been a number of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks involving
food products that may have been indirectly contaminated from live cattle.
If the vaccine is effective at reducing prevalence and levels of the
pathogen in cattle, environmental sources of E. coli O157:H7
would also be reduced.
Currently, I know of at least one
major cattle producer that is planning to implement the Epitopix vaccine.
Other vaccines and alternative technologies for reducing E. coli
O157:H7 in live cattle are also under development. The problem
of E. coli contaminated beef has been around for too long.
Hopefully, vaccines and other pre-harvest interventions will help provide
What do you think? Is the vaccine
the next intervention worth serious consideration?