Safety Zone
By: James Marsden

E. coli vaccines, are they worth the trip?

Source of Article:

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

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 .


 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 O157:H7.


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 the solution.


What do you think? Is the vaccine the next intervention worth serious consideration?

7/10/2009 11:37 AM 


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